MANILA – The 10-member Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN) must work vigorously to bring down tariffs in the region to zero and eliminate non-tariff barriers, as there is no other alternative to create a seamless economy, says Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
He said ASEAN have made great strides in the last 50 years by multiplying the economy 28 times, from US$87.2 billion (RM380 billion) in 1975 to US$2.5 trillion (RM10.88 trillion) in 2014 and it was now expected to grow to US$9.2 trillion (RM40 trillion) by 2050, making it the fourth largest economic grouping in the world.
“These are big numbers and impressive positions. But, we have yet to achieve them. The big challenge is to ensure that the integration of our individual economies, that is necessary for ASEAN itself to become a significant world market, is driven through.
“On that, we still have a long way to go,” he said today in his keynote address at the Prosperity For All Summit organised by the ASEAN Business Advisory Council held in conjunction with the 30th Asean Summit being held here.
Najib, who is also the Finance Minister, pointed out that that ASEAN has to further bring down trade tariffs which still exist.
He cited World Trade Organisation figures which showed that average tariffs in ASEAN were around four per cent in 2015.
“The work to bring them down to zero must be pursued vigorously,” he stressed to about 1,000 delegates attending the summit.
The region must also work to facilitate Intra-ASEAN trade further.
“To achieve the US$9.2 trillion figure by 2050 there has to be a 20 per cent reduction in fixed trade costs. We need to work towards facilitative measures such as national single windows seamlessly linked to the ASEAN single window and standardised customs procedures,” said Najib.
Most of all, non-tariff barriers and measures – or NTBs and NTMs -, called the “stubborn world-wide problem,” must be reduced and ultimately removed.
The prime minister revealed that between 2000 and 2015, NTBs and NTMs in ASEAN actually rose – from 1634 measures to 5975.
“This has to be checked and reversed. For ASEAN to reach the target economic total of US$9.2 trillion, NTBs and NTMs have to be reduced by 50 per cent.
“There is no alternative if we wish to be able to seize that prize. So huge, coordinated efforts are required to deal with this problem.
“These are important, as without economic success, there is nothing to be shared,” he said.
Present at the opening ceremony were former Philippines president and congresswoman, House of Representatives Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship and Chairman of the ASEAN Business Advisory Council Jose A. Concepcion. – BERNAMA