Enhanced Regional EU-ASEAN Dialogue Instrument

Despite progress in economic integration, ASEAN still faces challenges in tackling the proliferation of barriers to trade. In some cases, Non-tariff Measures (NTMs) may be legitimate policy actions aimed at protecting public health and safety, for example, but they can also serve as illegitimate barriers to trade known as Non-tariff Barriers (NTBs).

Engaging business communities in constructive dialogue and sharing business views with policy makers are of paramount importance to the EU and ASEAN. In this context, identifying the ways NTBs disrupt trade and business, and the benefits of their elimination, led to the production of a report, Non-tariff Barriers in ASEAN and their Elimination: A business perspective. Supported by EU-funded E-READI and commissioned by the ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ASEAN-BAC) and the EU-ASEAN Business Council (EUABC), the report, which was officially presented in Singapore in June 2019, examines the trade distorting effects of NTMs and barriers in three key sectors – automotive, agri-food, and healthcare – and provides a range of recommendations on how ASEAN could effectively address NTMs and eliminate NTBs.

Whilst ASEAN has made excellent progress on removing tariffs for intra-ASEAN trade, Non-tariff Measures, and therefore Non-tariff Barriers, have increased markedly despite the commitments made under the AEC to remove them. There is no doubt that NTBs hinder the development of intra-ASEAN trade, increase complexity and costs for ASEAN based businesses, and ultimately reduce competition and innovation whilst increasing costs to the end users. They are particularly harmful to the interests of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in the region.

Donald Kanak, Chairman, EU-ASEAN Business Council