JAKARTA, 21 November 2013 – In line with the targets of ASEAN Economic Community 2015, Member States have intensified efforts to facilitate and reduce barriers for intra-ASEAN trade in processed food sector while also protecting consumers in the region. In a meeting held 18-20 November in Jakarta, ASEAN Member States developed recommendations to expedite the development of Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA) for the prepared foodstuff sector.

Representatives from Member States who make up the ASEAN Consultative Committee on Standards and Quality Prepared Foodstuff Product Working Group (PFPWG) and from relevant ASEAN groups on health and agriculture discussed issues around regulatory system and conformity assessment procedures required for stimulating the internal market for prepared foodstuff while protecting consumers. There were also discussions on food trade in ASEAN as well as concerns and expectations of ASEAN industry, including the SME sector.

Speakers from the European Union’s Directorate-General on Health and Consumers  and the ASEAN Food and Beverage Alliance shared their insights with participants. European experts shared the experience in the European Union in removing trade barriers while ensuring food safety for the consumers. These presentations provided participants with an overview from an industry perspective and the available tools for an MRA. The workshop also provided an opportunity for key persons responsible for food safety in ASEAN Member States to share information and experiences regarding food safety. 

The meeting concluded with a set of recommendations for PFPWG on the approach, institutional arrangements, and scope of the MRA, as well as short and long term priorities in trade barrier reduction/removal for prepared foodstuff sector. Further, the participants reached a common understanding on MRA concept and mechanism for prepared foodstuff and how this is operationalized in each Member State.

The workshop was organised by the ASEAN Regional Integration Support from the EU (ARISE) Technical Assistance Programme and supported by the ASEAN Secretariat and the PFPWG.