TOKYO -- The 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are working on further steps to ensure the free flow of goods and services within the region and with the rest of the world, following the launch of the ASEAN Economic Community at the end of last year.
ASEAN Secretary-General Le Luong Minh on Monday said the integration scheme had helped the region liberalize its markets, as evidenced by the "virtual" elimination of tariffs on goods traded among the ASEAN member states.
"But tariff elimination is only part of the equation towards market liberalization," Minh told the 22nd International Conference on The Future of Asia in Tokyo. "Efforts will be geared more towards implementing trade facilitative measures and addressing nontariff measures."
Among these measures, Minh said, is the introduction of the ASEAN Single Window, which, once fully established, will create a single point of entry for "seamless exchange of electronically transmitted trade-related documents," significantly reducing the time and cost for import and export transactions.
He said a more comprehensive and binding protocol to implement the scheme had been signed recently by ASEAN finance ministers. The scheme is further supported by the ASEAN Agreement on Customs, which came into force in November 2014.
ASEAN has also reactivated a consultative committee to identify and expedite the elimination of nontariff barriers.
Other liberalization and integration measures include the ASEAN Trade Repository, as well as mutual recognition arrangements and the harmonization of regulations.
"Through these mutual recognition arrangements, exporters can have their products tested and certified before export without having to undergo similar conformity assessment procedures in the importing country," Minh explained.
These measures are expected to be supported by the improved integration of regional financial services, he added. "Significant progress" has been made on this, as well as on a document promoting the liberalization and facilitation of cross-border investment.
Improved transport links through schemes such as the ASEAN Open Skies agreement and the ASEAN Highway Network will further support regional trade.
"With the ASEAN Community having been established, ASEAN views its integration process as a work in progress," Minh concluded.