ASEAN Economic Ministers met today to sign the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement, the ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement (ACIA) and the Protocol to Implement the 7th Package of Commitments under ASEAN Framework Agreement on Services (AFAS). 

ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA)

The ATIGA integrates all existing and new ASEAN commitments and initiatives related to trade in goods in one comprehensive framework.  This agreement covers, among others, tariff liberalisation, elimination of non-tariff barriers, rules of origin, trade facilitation, customs procedures, standards and conformance, and sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures.  

Dr Surin Pitsuwan, Secretary-General of ASEAN, said, “with ATIGA, ASEAN will undertake a holistic approach to trade facilitation to streamline and simplify regional trade procedures in order to allow for easier flow of goods and trade at both regional and international level.”  With increased trade volumes brought about by progressive reduction of tar¬iffs and quotas in international trade, this will certainly benefit traders.   

ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement (ACIA)

ACIA is a forward-looking and comprehensive investment agreement to meet the needs of ASEAN at this stage of its dynamic development.  In light of intensifying foreign direct investment (FDI) competition, the conclusion of ACIA is timely to strengthen investment liberalisation and protection with extensive promotion and facilitation programmes.  “This is essential to reduce uncertainties and transaction costs of investment in ASEAN,” said Dr. Surin.  He further remarked that “ACIA is designed to address the present challenging global economic environment to enable ASEAN to maintain its premier position for investment flows through the adoption of a free and open investment regime.” 

7th Package of ASEAN Framework Agreement on Services (AFAS) Commitments

The signing of the 7th AFAS Protocol signaled another important milestone of ASEAN towards progressive liberalisation of its services sectors in line with the targets under the AEC Blueprint.  Dr. Surin said, “ASEAN is an important and expanding global market for trade in services and the AFAS 7 packages will reflect the commitment of ASEAN to achieve higher levels of market openings in the services sectors.”  Dr. Surin emphasised that progress in this area is important as there is a direct correlation between economic growth and a combination of access to external markets and the pace of domestic reforms in the sector. Further, improved market access in services sectors will stimulate competitive selection and productivity growth.