Posted at Business World on February 15, 2012 11:10:29 PM
THE PHILIPPINES has told the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to step up integration efforts amid global uncertainties and moves to form new trade blocs.
The regional group’s High Level Task Force on Economic Integration (HLTF-EI) met in Bangkok last week to discuss plans toward achieving the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by 2015, the Trade department yesterday said in a statement.
“The external difficulties like the crisis in Europe and uncertainties in key markets as well as the current momentum in forming the Trans-Pacific Partnership have strengthened ASEAN’s resolve to work harder for a more integrated ASEAN,” it quoted Undersecretary Adrian S. Cristobal, Jr. as saying.
Mr. Cristobal, who attended the meeting, urged a review of efforts to address non-tariff trade issues as well as the bloc’s Framework Agreement on Services. He also stressed the need to strengthen institutional agreements under the AEC Council, which can look into a post-2015 vision.
“We need to look further than 2015 and ensure that the regional environment will enable our SMEs (small and medium enterprises) to compete in the global market. Regional integration would mean lower business costs, among other benefits,” Mr. Cristobal said.
Overall, officials considered activating ASEAN working groups on trade in goods, services, and investment to begin drafting of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership templates.
Officials also agreed to hold the First ASEAN Regulatory Reform Symposium in July in the Philippines. The event will be held back to back with another HTLF-EI meeting.