ASEAN economic progress tops agenda

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Senior Economic Officials–Dialogue Partners’ Consultations (SEOM–DP Consultations) was officially held from June 14-15 via video conferencing. Permanent Secretary (Economy) at the Ministry of Finance and Economy (MoFE) Dr Hajah May Fa’ezah binti Haji Ahmad Ariffin chaired the meeting.

Senior economic officials from the 10 ASEAN member states and its dialogue partners including Canada; People’s Republic of China (MOFCOM); India, Japan (METI); Republic of Korea (ROK); and the United States (US) (AUSTR), as well as senior officials from the ASEAN Secretariat attended the series of meetings virtually.

The two-day meeting with dialogue partners was the first to be held this year. The meetings deliberated on the progress and the various work plans to explore and further strengthen trade and investment cooperation between ASEAN and each respective dialogue partners.

The 33rd SEOM–AUSTR Consultations discussed on the latest developments surrounding the ASEAN-US Trade and Investment Framework Arrangement (TIFA) and Expanded Economic Engagement (E3) Initiatives Work Plan to further enhance the economic engagements between ASEAN and the US towards economic recovery and sustainability.

The meeting noted on the positive development of the activities conducted under the auspices of the US-ASEAN Connect and the US’ technical assistance programme to ASEAN namely ‘Inclusive Growth in ASEAN through Innovation, Trade, and E-Commerce (IGNITE)’.

The 34th SEOM–ROK Consultations discussed on the possible way forward for the further liberalisation of sensitive products including other areas to improve ASEAN-Korea Trade in Goods Agreement (AKTIGA).

The meeting welcomed the progress of the implementation of the ASEAN-Korea Free Trade Agreement (AKFTA) as well as the progress and activities on economic cooperation projects in enhancing the capacity and productivity of industries in ASEAN member states, including the Technology Advice and Solutions from Korea (TASK); the establishment of ASEAN-Korea Innovation Center; and activities on ASEAN-ROK Business Council’s Programmes.

Permanent Secretary (Economy) at the Ministry of Finance and Economy Dr Hajah May Fa’ezah binti Haji Ahmad Ariffin at the virtual meeting with senior economic officials from the ASEAN member states and its dialogue partners. PHOTO: MOFE

The 1st SEOM-METI consultations for the 26th ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM)-METI Consultations (SEOM-METI 1/26) discussed the progress of various activities that are being undertaken to facilitate regional economic integration between ASEAN and Japan, as well as on the status of the ratification of the First Protocol to Amend the ASEAN-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership (AJCEP) Agreement.

The meeting welcomed the steady progress of the implementation of the ASEAN-Japan Economic Resilience Action Plan with the aim to enhance cooperation in mitigating the economic challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure long-term economic resilience for ASEAN and Japan’s post-pandemic recovery.

The 13th SEOM–Canada Consultations noted on the progress of the Reference Paper for a possible ASEAN-Canada FTA, as it is one of Brunei Darussalam’s Priority Economic Deliverables (PED) under the strategic thrust recovery in 2021.

The meeting discussed potential capacity-building activities that can be beneficial for AMS from an ASEAN-Canada economic engagement in the future, especially in view of the on-going transformation of the global economy post-COVID 19.

The 37th SEOM–Plus Three Consultations deliberated on the draft ASEAN Plus Three Economic Cooperation Work Programme 2021-2022 and exchanged views on other potential scope for cooperation under the ASEAN Plus Three platform.

The meeting discussed the implementation progress of the ASEAN Plus Three Plan of Action (APT POA) on Mitigating the Economic Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic with the objectives to keep markets open for trade and investment, and strengthening economic resiliency in the region.

The 33rd SEOM–India Consultations discussed the progress of the implementation of the ASEAN-India Free Trade Agreement (AIFTA) and other matters of interest to ASEAN including India’s Customs (Administration of Rules of Origin under Trade Agreements) Rules (CAROTAR) 2020, and the developments of the ASEAN’s proposed Scoping Paper on the Review of the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (AITIGA).

The 39th SEOM – MOFCOM Consultations exchanged views on the impact of COVID-19 on regional and global economy as well as trade and economic cooperation.

The meeting reviewed the various initiatives under ASEAN-China in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic, including the implementation of the ASEAN–China Economic Ministers’ Joint Statement on Combatting COVID-19 and Enhancing ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA) Cooperation, and the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework (ACRF).

The meeting also deliberated on the overall implementation of the ACFTA including its upgrading protocol, the progress on the implementation of the remaining elements in the Future Work Programme (FWP) of the ACFTA Upgrading Protocol and other areas of cooperation.

The meeting explored possible areas to further strengthen trade and economic cooperation between ASEAN and China, such as low-carbon and circular economy, cross-border e-commerce and digital transformation of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

The meeting also discussed the latest progress of regional and sub-regional economic cooperation between ASEAN and China, such as Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) China Cooperation (BECC).