25 August 2007
ASEAN and Japan near agreement on free trade
Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are nearing completion of a free trade agreement which will hopefully be signed during a summit later this year, an official said Saturday.
Ramon Kabigting, the assistant trade secretary of the Philippines, which is hosting an ASEAN economic ministers’ conference, said the draft on trade in goods had been completed and they would now discuss the agreement on services and investment.
"The text of the chapter on services is already prepared, It is acceptable to both Japan and ASEAN but we cannot say it is done until we agree on other things like economic cooperation and so on," he said.
"Right now the services text is acceptable to both parties, the investment text acceptable to both," but both sides must approve the whole agreement together, Kabigting said.
Under the accord, Japan will abolish tariffs on 90 percent of their imports from ASEAN. This list of items with no tariffs will be expanded every five years, Kabigting said.
He stressed that certain politically sensitive items were exempted from immediate trade liberalization under the agreement which is expected to be signed at an ASEAN summit in Singapore in November.
ASEAN, which includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, has been preparing free trade agreements with various economic partners such as Japan, China, United States and the European Union.
Individual ASEAN members are also readying bilateral free trade agreements with these partners which will be even wider than the projected ASEAN free trade accord.