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Non-tariff barriers slow down AEC

Publication Date : 18-12-2013


Asean government regulators and the private sector should work towards a common definition of non-tariff barriers (NTBs) and common approaches of identifying them, said a recent Asian Development Bank publication.

The international financial institution said NTBs, most of them behind-the-border measures, are probably the most formidable impediments to the achievement of a “single market and production base”.

The bank analysed progress made by the regional bloc so far in implementing actions in the Asean Economic Community (AEC) Blueprint to address NTBs in the region.

The findings are in an online publication titled “The Asean Economic Community: A Work in Progress”.

ADB, which collaborated with Singapore’s Institute of Southeast Asian Studies for the publication, also examined the NTBs affecting the integration of the sectors designated as priority in the blueprint.

“The Asean government regulators and private sector should work toward a common definition of NTBs and common approaches of identifying NTBs,” said the development bank.

“The private sector (exporters, importers, traders, etc) is in the best position to identify the NTBs from among the non-tariff measures (NTMs) they face at the border and behind the border.”

NTMs are broadly defined as any measure, other than tariff, that distorts trade, said the ADB report.

These are not limited to measures designed to restrict trade but in general also include border and behind-the-border measures that arise from governments’ regulatory policies, procedures and administrative requirements which are imposed to serve a particular purpose.

Restrictive business practices may also be seen as NTMs, the bank added.

“Given the very slow progress in identifying NTBs from among the NTMs, a critical step is to subject all existing NTM to a compliance review to ensure that they are transparent, non-discriminatory, and minimises trade restrictiveness,” said the report.

It added that to mitigate the increase of NTBs, any new notification of modification of existing technical regulations should be subjected to a regulatory impact analysis before it gets accepted as an NTM.

ADB also suggested the establishment of a web-based facility to report, monitor and eliminate NTBs in increasing transparency and compliance with government regulations as well as administrative procedures and requirements.

Another recommendation is the harmonisation of national standards.

“The best way to deal with technical barriers to trade is the harmonisation of standards and mutual recognition agreements (MRAs),” said the report.

Such move is to ensure the standards are not country-specific and beyond internationally recognised standards, it said.

While work has started in this area, the number of sectors and products covered is very small, it added.

In this light, member states should fast track standards harmonisation and MRAs to cover other products in the priority sectors, the report stated.

Similarly, a massive information dissemination campaign should be undertaken for the standards that have been harmonised and MRAs that have been reached in order to increase awareness among the stakeholders.

The key to compliance with standards and technical regulations is for the private sector and relevant industry associations to work with national institutions to strengthen national standards setting, the report stated.

At the same time, technical assistance should be provided to firms to help them meet technical standards. Technical assistance becomes crucial during the adjustment process to new standards and conformity assessments, it added.

Economic integration in the region will continue, but it will be limited to the economies that are able to address the NTBs, it said.



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