May 04, 2007
Japan To Iron Out Bilateral Issues With CLMV, Sign AJCEP This Year
From Umi Hani Sharani
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, May 4 (Bernama) — Asean is waiting for Japan to iron out its bilateral issues with the CLMV countries (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam) before proceeding to sign the Asean-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership (AJCEP) this November at the Asean Summit in Singapore.
International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz said Japan has no problems with the other six Asean countries and now needed to accelerate its bilateral understanding individually with these countries, particularly Vietnam with regard to the timeframe issue.
The original six Asean members are Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.
"We have asked them to do it expeditiously. I am very confident that they can solve it because even Vietnam has assured that they don’t want to be a constraint to the (AJCEP) signing," she told reporters after chairing the Asean-Ministry of Economy and Trade of Japan Meeting on the sidelines of the 13th Asean Economic Ministers Retreat here today.
But there has to be pragmatism on both sides in giving flexibility because the problem for their countries is just a matter of setting the timeframe, she added.
The AJCEP Agreement will be comprehensive, covering trade in goods, services, investments, rules of origin (ROO), dispute settlement mechanism, sanitary and phyto-sanitary, technical barriers to trade, and economic cooperation.
Japan has also requested the inclusion of a chapter on intellectual property rights.
In a separate statement, Rafidah said the regional deal will spur Japanese companies to specialize their production networks in different Asean countries while the regional ROO will enable them to cumulate parts and components from Japan and different Asean countries besides taking advantage of the Asean-Japan liberalised tariff regime.
Japan remains Asean’s major trading partner and in 2005, trade increased 7.9 percent to US$155 billion from US$143 billion in 2004, representing 12.6 percent of Asean’s global trade.
In the context of Malaysia, Rafidah said the regional AJCEP will complement the bilateral Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) already signed between Malaysia and Japan in December 2005.
"The regional deal will further stimulate Malaysia’s intra-Asean exports, as well as exports to Japan," she said.
Trade between Malaysia and Japan in 2006 amounted to US$31.5 billion, which accounted for 10.8 percent of Malaysia’s total trade value, while exports were at US$14.2 billion and imports at US$17.3 billion.
Japan is also an important source of foreign direct investment (FDI) to Malaysia, with its investment totalling RM14.5 billion (US$3.9 billion) for the 2001 to February 2007 period.
Rafidah also said that a survey was being undertaken to obtain feedback from Japanese companies operating in the region on measures that could be taken to enhance Asean’s competitiveness.