ASEAN urged to cut tariffs, unify markets

Other News Materials 15 April 2008 07:29 (UTC +04:00)

The Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) must do much more to achieve a free flow of goods, services and investments, the ambassador-at-large for Singapore's Foreign Affairs Ministry's said in a published report Tuesday. ( dpa )

One of ASEAN's greatest challenges is to "move fast enough and compete against China and India," The Straits Times quoted Professor Tommy Koh as saying.

Expressing the hope that the region would achieve rapid yet equitable growth, Koh cited ASEAN's "deplorable record" of implementing agreements.

Only 30 per cent of past ASEAN agreements and commitments had been implemented, Koh told a Chinese Chamber of Commerce gathering on Monday.

Koh challenged the business community to "play the role of a well- informed and vigorous advocate for the more rapid implementation of ASEAN economic agreements."

He urged members to exert more pressure on governments to carry out their commitments.

Koh said he was confident that the ASEAN Charter, which turns the 10-member organization into a legal entity, would be fully ratified when the group holds its summit in November. Six countries have approved the charter so far.

Koh said that his vision is for a single ASEAN market and production base, with a free flow of goods, services, investments and skilled labour by 2018.

There is still "much more room for improvement," Koh said, noting that ASEAN must abolish remaining tariffs on goods and services, double efforts to make non-tariff measures more transparent and remove all non-tariff barriers.

ASEAN includes Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Brunei, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar.