ASEAN-Japan to pilot free-trade list

MCOT | 20 November 2007

ASEAN-Japan to pilot free-trade list

SINGAPORE, Nov 20 (TNA) — ASEAN and Japan have agreed to put 70 categories of goods on an intensive tariff reduction list, in a show of commitment to the free trade agreement between the regional bloc and Japan.

Thailand stands to benefit from the move, as it will complement the existing economic cooperation between Bangkok and Tokyo, according to Chutima Boonyaprapasaran, Director-General of the Trade Negotiations Department of the Ministry of Commerce.

Speaking on the sidelines of the 19-22 November ASEAN leaders summit in Singapore, Ms. Chutima said the ASEAN-Japan Free Trade Agreement is expected to boost the volume of regional trade by at least 10 per cent.

Successful negotiations between ASEAN and Japan towards a free trade agreement have resulted in the pledge for the two sides to reduce tariffs for a list of 70 goods, mainly agricultural, fishery and chemical
products. These products account for over 90 per cent of the goods subject to free-trade arrangements, according to Ms Chutima.

Once the agreement is signed and implemented, ASEAN and Japan will bring tariffs of these 70 kinds of products down to zero. As for the remaining goods subject to the FTA, the two sides would gradually bring import tariffs down to zero over the following five years.

"Research we have conducted indicates that liberalisation will boost regional trade volume by ten per cent. Moreover, Thailand stands to benefit from the issue of product origin and from cheaper import of raw
materials from fellow ASEAN countries," Ms. Chutima said.

On Thailand’s part, the process of formalising the ASEAN-Japan FTA negotiations would start on November 30 when the Commerce Ministry and the National Economic and Social Advisory Council will start conducting public hearings on those affected by the pact.

In December, the framework of ASEAN-Japan FTA negotiations will be presented to the Cabinet and the National Legislative Assembly. Any decision must wait until the newly elected government is in place.

In any case, Ms. Chutima said she believes the ASEAN-Japan Free Trade Agreement should complete the ratification process within 2008 - ahead of the next ASEAN summit which will be hosted by Thailand.

ASEAN trade officials have agreed that similar economic cooperation arrangements should be broadened to involve other ASEAN regional partners including China, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand.

The body also seeks an independent think tank should be set up to study the implications of closer regional integration. (TNA)

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