MANILA— The year 2017 witnessed ASEAN efforts to beef up its free trade agreements (FTAs) with its international stakeholders gaining ground.
This, according to Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez, in his message read by DTI Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo, during the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Summits Tuesday.
He was referring to the ASEAN-Hong Kong, China Free Trade Agreement (AHKFTA) and the ASEAN-Hong Kong Investment Agreement (AHKIA) which were signed earlier by ASEAN and Hong Kong trade ministers.
Lopez is also the chair of this year’s ASEAN Economic Ministers.
“This year also further intensified the resolve between ASEAN and its Dialogue partners to deepen engagements through the enhancement of existing free trade agreements (FTAs) (ASEAN-China FTA (ACFTA), ASEAN-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership (AJCEPA), ASEAN-Korea FTA (AKFTA) ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand FTA (AANZFTA), and ASEAN-India FTA (AIFTA) that are expected to generate new openings for business opportunities, especially for the MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises),” the DTI chief said.
Notable developments include the ASEAN-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership (AJCEPA), ASEAN-Korea FTA (AKFTA) ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand FTA (AANZFTA), and ASEAN-India FTA (AIFTA) and completion of the Stage 1 of the AANZFTA General Review that seeks to enhance ASEAN’s FTA with Australia and New Zealand.
“Negotiations on improving market access under the AKFTA are ongoing, which will provide lower tariffs for Philippine exports of tropical fruits and agricultural goods to Korea,” he added.
In a bid to deepen its relationship with its external partners and provide more opportunities for its people, Lopez said ASEAN continuously embarks on discussions for possible FTAs, which include those initial exploratory talks and exercises undertaken with Canada, European Union and Russia for the past months.
“For Canada, in particular, ASEAN has embarked on a Joint Feasibility Study which is still a work in progress, and have agreed on the conduct of exploratory discussions to further assess the merits for such a proposal of a possible FTA,” he added.
Meanwhile, the DTI chief added that ASEAN and EU have resumed initial discussions on the talks to discuss the proposal on the possibility of resuming the negotiations for a region-to-region FTA, which was on hiatus since in 2009.
“Lastly, an FTA with Russia is being explored as a region-to-region FTA between ASEAN and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), with information-sharing and confidence building activities to be undertaken as stepping stones to possible more formal FTA talks,” Lopez said.