Regional ministers fully support ASEAN BAC

James Kon

The ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) held its consultation with the ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ASEAN BAC) during its 27th AEM Retreat, via video conferencing.

The AEM ASEAN Business Advisory Council was spearheaded by the Brunei Chair Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Finance and Economy II Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew bin Abdullah, who expressed his full support towards ASEAN BAC.

ASEAN, as a region, needs to succeed with its health response to the COVID-19 pandemic in order for the ASEAN Economic Recovery Framework and consequent Action Plan to be successfully accomplished.

The AEM are in accordance with the key recommendations for ASEAN to leverage on its collective strength to go for joint purchase and access to the vaccines which will be funded by the ASEAN Pandemic Recovery Fund.

This is to ensure equitable and swift distribution of the vaccines across member states, which will instil trust and confidence in the movement of goods, services and, above all, natural persons across the region.

Over and above the immediate access to vaccines, the harmonisation of testing and contact tracing standards, and also removing barriers for easier access to pharmaceutical and medical devices, should be put in place in the soonest possible time. These measures will help revive the most affected sectors such as travel, tourism and hospitality.

The AEM is determined to endorse the ASEAN Senior Official Meetings and the ASEAN Coordinating Council Working Group on Public Health Emergencies to engage and process ASEAN BAC’s health response recommendations.

The AEM commended the ASEAN BAC 2021 Chairmanship’s theme ‘Recover. Stronger. Together. Sama-Sama’, as presented by chair Legislative Council member Yang Berhormat Siti Rozaimeriyanty binti Dato Seri Laila Jasa Haji Abdul Rahman. The theme is highly inspiring and most relevant at this most trying time of having to save lives and livelihoods.

Translating the theme into action, Yang Berhormat Siti Rozaimeriyanty presented on her chairmanship’s legacy project entitled Harnessing Impact with Resilient Employability Digitally (HIRED), which aims to put together an ecosystem that will address the skills and knowledge gaps in ASEAN. The acceleration of digital transformation under the new normality has given ASEAN an advantage to provide more precise skills for its workforce in preparation of post-pandemic recovery with strong support and cooperation from the private business sector.

In response, the AEM has given its commitment to provide strong support and collaboration to the HIRED legacy project.

ASEAN BAC emphasised its full support to the Brunei Chairmanship’s first of 10 priority economic deliverables (or PEDs) of streamlining assessment of non-tariff measures (NTMs) and non-tariff barriers (NTBs), which continue to proliferate in number and complexity that stymies the growth of intra-ASEAN trade. The AEM concurred with ASEAN BAC’s recommendations of ensuring private sector consultation and inputs in the launch of the NTM Toolkit and the setting up of the NTM Independent Panel of Experts.

The AEM also agreed to increase the annual target of number of actual cases processed and resolved by the Coordinating Committee on ATIGA for 2021 and to initiate, through the ASEAN Secretariat, the consultations on NTMs and NTBs in the Agri-food, Automotive and Healthcare sectors. The AEM agreed to task the concerned ASEAN Bodies to closely consult and engage with ASEAN BAC for this purpose.

The AEM conveyed its appreciation on the status given by ASEAN BAC on continuing Legacy Projects: Digital Startups Towards ASEAN Resilience and Sustainability (Vietnam), Digital Trade Connect (Thailand), SmartGrowth Connect (Singapore), ASEAN Mentorship for Entrepreneurs Network (AMEN) and Laos Logistics Link (Laos). The AEM encouraged the council to pursue and sustain the projects which impacts on enhancing people and business connectivity, especially the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), to ensure inclusive and resilient growth for ASEAN.

The AEM conveyed its appreciation to Myanmar ASEAN BAC for the update on the current status of the business environment in Myanmar. The AEM was pleased to hear of the sentiment presented by Myanmar that private business would like to ensure that all international and domestic contracts and agreements will continue to be honoured and that normalcy will be restored, and the implementation of economic recovery plans will be in effect as soon as possible.

ASEAN BAC, in return, was appreciative of the response from the Myanmar Union Minister for Investment and Foreign Economic Relations Aung Naing Oo, who assured that the current administration is a short-term arrangement where business and reforms will continue to operate and be pursued, until elections can be held shortly.