ASEAN free trade must consider development gap – Than Htut

Myanmar’s vice director of the ministry of national panning and economic development has said that the ASEAN region needs to renegotiate its free trade agreement to account for the development gap between richer and poorer countries.

Than Htut was addressing the 25th high level meeting of the ASEAN Economic Community held at the Sedona Hotel in Yangon between February 18 and 19.

“We have a development gap in the ASEAN Region. It is not convenient for some countries like Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos if we follow the ASEAN Free Trade Area rules and regulations. So we need to negotiate again,” said Than Htut.

According to the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) agreement, ASEAN member states must allow the free flow of goods, services, investment and capital by eliminating tariffs on preferential products.

The ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA) was signed in 2009 to supersede AFTA by focusing on non-tariff barriers.

According to Than Htut, ASEAN member countries have also been discussing a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) to include China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand.

“A survey has been done for after the implementation of ASEAN Economic Community in 2015. According to this survey, the result shows national GDP of ASEAN countries will have increased,” added Than Htut.

The six new members of the new economic partnership will account for up to 50 % of the world population while ASEAN member states will account for only 10 % of population.

“It is something to be interesting in if we are taking into consideration economic integration of the RCEP. Discussion started in 2013 and the 4th discussion will be held in Nannam, China in March,” he continued.

In the meeting, trade partners will discuss three basic issues: trade in goods, trade in services and trade in investment.

Others topics to be covered include economic and technical cooperation, competition policies, intellectual property, dispute settlement, government procurement and electronic commerce.

Source: ELEVEN Myanmar

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