ASEAN free-trade zone by 2015

Trade is what makes the world go round, and like a wolf in the chicken coop, every producer wants access to the punters with cash. Here in SE Asia, there is a strong desire to move ahead in the world. Indonesian President SBY, never stops talking about foreign investment, and his fellow ASEAN leaders are anxious to kick start their economies with a free-trade zone. There is a lot of manuevering for sure, with Japan not wanting to be left out of the party. The proposed free-trade zone would come into existence in 2015.

How would all this affect Bali? Well Bali is largely rural and not a major manufacturing center. Rice and tourism are the main products here. I guess it would make it easier for street vendors to obtain cheap Chinese goods, if China were included.

Here’s more from the Jakarta Post.

ASEAN rushes to create European-style single market to boost economic clout.

KUALA LUMPUR (AP): Southeast Asian ministers hope to fast-track plans to create a European-style single market by 2015 in talks in Malaysia this week, as the region struggles to strengthen its economic muscle to counter competition from rising giants China and India.

During a five-day meeting starting Monday, Cabinet ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, also plan to sign a pact to facilitate trade and investment with the United States — a step short of a free trade agreement butsignaling stronger linkages with its No.1 trading partner, officials say.

The ASEAN ministers will meet counterparts from China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand to narrow differences in free trade negotiations, and seek especially to revive stalled talks with India.

The 39-year-old bloc aims to fuse into a single market and production base by 2020, but some members want the ASEAN Economic Community, or AEC, to be realized by 2015 to ensure the region stays competitive.

The AEC would allow the free flow of goods, services and investment across the region, but does not include a single currency system.




“We need to muster political will to create the AEC by 2015, instead of 2020,” ASEAN Secretary-General Ong Keng Yong told The Associated Press.

“Competition is for real now. More and more attractive investment locations are coming up, not only in China and India but elsewhere in the world,” he said. “If we want to be in the marathon race, we cannot stop for too long and say time out, we need a massage on our feeble legs. We’ve got to keep on pushing.”

Barriers in ASEAN to the flow of goods and services and restrictive business practices still hinder growth in the region, which has a market of more than 530 million people, but accounts for only 6 percent of world exports, officials said.

The bloc groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Malaysian Trade Minister Rafidah Aziz said ASEAN ministers would identify ways to accelerate the AEC to 2015, including removing non-tariff barriers and quickening the pace of service sector liberalization.

“It’s more important for us to make ASEAN a seamless production and export base in terms of policy and administration. Otherwise, ASEAN will continue to be fragmented,” she said.

Speeding up regional integration takes on a renewed urgency as ASEAN struggles to be in the driver’s seat of East Asian integration.

Japanese Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Toshihiro Nikai will call for a massive pan-Asian free trade area involving ASEAN, Australia, China, South Korea, India, Japan and New Zealand at the meeting this week.

He is expected to offer a US$100 million fund to promote the proposed zone, which has a combined population of 3.1 billion people and a gross domestic product of almost US$10 trillion, Japanese officials told national news agency Bernama over the weekend.

The goal, however, is difficult to achieve because of the region’s many rivalries.

The ASEAN ministers plan to seal a trade and investment facilitation pact with the United States that will bring in new funds for regional projects and spur investor confidence, officials said.

ASEAN ministers will also consider a revised free-trade offer submitted by India on Friday to cut tariffs on 94.6 percent of ASEAN’s exports — including sensitive agricultural products suchas palm oil, tea and pepper — compared to only 69 percent previously.

India also whittled down the list of items it wants excluded from a proposed free trade agreement from about 850 to 560, covering 5.4 percent of ASEAN’s exports.

Malaysia’s Rafidah, however, has rejected the offer while other ASEAN officials said they need to study it further. Ong urged the bloc to compromise.

“It’s not exactly something which all of us are excited about but we should be a good sport and meet them halfway,” he said. “FTA with India and FTA with China are the key, the weight we need for our economic expansion.”

China and ASEAN have agreed to create no-tariff zone by 2010 in their combined market of 2 billion people.