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A firm commitment to deepen economic integration

AS ASEAN chair in 2018, Singapore has pursued economic deliverables centred around five key areas of economic focus, with the aim of delivering tangible benefits to both businesses and individuals.

On Aug 29 this year, the 50th ASEAN Economic Ministers' Meeting and Related Meetings, the 32nd ASEAN Free Trade Area Council Meeting, and the 21st ASEAN Investment Area Council Meeting were held in Singapore.

These meetings were chaired by Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing, and attended by his counterparts from the other ASEAN Member States (AMS). A number of key outcomes were reached at these meetings.

  • Signed the First Protocol to Amend the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA), which introduces the necessary legal amendments in order to effect the ASEAN-wide Self-Certification scheme.

The AWSC allows certified exporters to self-certify the origin of their exports to enjoy preferential tariffs under the ATIGA. The AWSC brings about benefits to businesses (exporters and importers) and also to the issuing authorities of authorised Certificates of Origin.

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With the implementation of the AWSC, Singapore-based exporters as a whole could potentially enjoy annual savings of approximately S$500,000. These savings could potentially increase as more users of the ATIGA opt to use the AWSC.

  • Signed the 10th Package of Commitments under the ASEAN Framework Agreement on Services (AFAS), which is the final package of services liberalisation commitments under the AFAS.

Under AFAS 10, AMS will not only increase the depth of their services liberalisation for sectors previously committed under their ninth Package of Commitments, but also open up new services sectors to market access.

  • Endorsed AMS' commitment to transit their ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement (ACIA) Reservation Lists to a two-annex negative list structure, which will instil greater transparency and clarity on the nature of commitments taken by each AMS. The transition, which is expected to be done by end-2023, will give investors in ASEAN greater certainty and confidence when making their investment decisions. This will boost investments in the region.
  • Endorsed the ASEAN Agreement on e-Commerce, which is ASEAN's first agreement in the area of e-commerce and is slated for signing on the sidelines of the 17th AEC Council Meeting in Nov 2018.

The agreement's objectives are to:

(i) Facilitate cross-border e-commerce transactions;

(ii) Contribute to creating an environment of trust and confidence in the use of e-commerce; and

(iii) Deepen cooperation among AMS to further develop and intensify the use of e-commerce to drive economic growth and social development in the region.

The agreement will enter into force upon the deposit of the instruments of ratification by AMS with the Secretary-General of ASEAN.

  • Endorsed the ASEAN Digital Integration Framework (DIF), which will assist AMS in making improvements to the regional digital ecosystem and monitoring the region's progress in digital integration.

The DIF proposes six recommendations for AMS to intensify work in the next 12-18 months to set the foundation for local businesses to achieve a potential US$0.8 trillion to US$1.1 trillion increase in GDP across ASEAN by 2025.

The six recommendations are:

(i) Facilitate seamless trade;
(ii) Protect data while supporting digital trade and innovation;
(iii) Enable seamless digital payments;
(iv) Broaden the region's digital talent base;
(v) Foster entrepreneurship;
(vi) Coordinate actions.

These deliverables, in addition to the operationalisation of the ASEAN Single Window for some AMS, the adoption of the ASEAN Declaration on Cruise Tourism, and commencement of the Feasibility Study on an ASEAN Mutual Recognition Arrangement on Authorised Economic Operators, represent a successful year for ASEAN economic integration and a boost for trade connectivity in the region.