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Asean services providers, exporters to gain from two accords signed at Asean Economic Ministers Meeting

ASEAN services providers will gain greater market access and exporters will enjoy more convenience under two agreements signed at the 50th Asean Economic Ministers Meeting on Wednesday evening.

One of these was the protocol to implement the 10th and final package of commitments for the Asean Framework Agreement on Services (AFAS), with the member states increasing the depth of their commitments as well as opening up new services sectors.

AFAS was first signed in 1995, with restrictions on trade in services being progressively reduced or eliminated with successive packages of commitments. 

With the latest package, it will be easier for service providers in Asean to participate in sectors that were previously closed, such as logistics, air transport, maritime transport, computer services, telecommunications, tourism, construction services, and professional services.

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Also signed was the first protocol to amend the Asean Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA), so as to implement the Asean-wide Self-Certification (AWSC) regime. This allows certified exporters to self-certify the origin of their goods and thus enjoy preferential treatment under the ATIGA.

The regime gives greater convenience to businesses and helps them save costs, as they will not need to apply to the authorities for a Certificate of Origin.

Singapore-based exporters could potentially enjoy annual savings of about half a million dollars by not having to apply for such certificates, said Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing.

The two agreements are longstanding initiatives that have been much anticipated by the private sector, said Mr Chan. "We are confident that the completion of the AFAS and the AWSC will contribute to a more open and facilitative business environment in Asean."

Separately, startups and businesses in Japan and Singapore will receive more support under a Memorandum of Understanding signed at the sidelines of the event between Singapore's Economic Development Board, Enterprise Singapore and the Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO).

The three parties will improve access and opportunities via new initiatives, events and information exchanges, strengthening links between Singapore and Japan's innovation ecosystems. The MOU also marks the inclusion of Japan in Singapore's Global Innovation Alliance.

Said Enterprise Singapore deputy chief executive officer Ted Tan: "Through this partnership, we will work with JETRO and their partners to enable Singapore startups to tap Japan's strong innovation ecosystem, and work together with high potential Japanese startups to jointly enter the Asean market through Singapore."

The signing was witnessed by Mr Chan and Japan's Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko.