MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines remains cautiously optimistic that the ASEAN goal of economic integration will be done by 2015.
During the recent 19th ASEAN Summit held in Bali, Indonesia, Trade Secretary Gregory L. Domingo said, “we are fully committed to the ASEAN goal of economic integration by 2015. While we remain cautiously optimistic that this agenda can be achieved, we also want to ensure that the ASEAN population benefits from the integration.”
Leaders of Southeast Asian nations adopted key cooperation frameworks to fast-track economic integration and boost trade and investments in the region amid an ailing global economy.
One of the agreements signed during the Bali ASEAN Meeting will now implement the second package of specific commitments in trade in services between ASEAN and China.
The agreement further boosts trade and investment relations between the Philippines and China as it opens opportunities to Filipino services while bringing in more investments in sectors such as energy and transport.
ASEAN likewise signed the Second Protocol to amend the agreement on trade in goods between ASEAN and Korea.
As such, the DTI said it will be easier for ASEAN countries, including the Philippines and Korea, to implement tariff commitments. With the signing, we can expect zero duties to our coconut oil exports under the ASEAN Korea Trade in Goods Agreement, making Philippine products more competitive.
Coconut oil, one of the Philippines’ key commodities for exports, currently has three percent tariff under the ASEAN Korea Free Trade in Goods Agreement (AK-TIG).
During the Summit in Bali, leaders adopted the ASEAN Framework for Equitable Development and the ASEAN Framework for Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. The former cites new and innovative initiatives to boost financial access and financial security throughout the region, including an ASEAN forum on best practices on access to finance.
Meanwhile, the ASEAN Framework for Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership sets the principles by which ASEAN member countries deepen their engagements with countries they have free trade agreements with and other external economic partners.
Three working groups (trade in goods, services, and investments) will be established to define specific principles and template under which ASEAN will engage its trading partners.
ASEAN has trade agreements with China, Korea, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. In 2010, ASEAN remained one of the most attractive destinations for investments with $78.5 billion, doubling the 2009 level and surpassing the global crisis peak in 2007 of $75.7 billion. Over the last decade, investments in ASEAN grew at an annual average of 19 percent. –Ma. Elisa P. Osorio (The Philippine Star)
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