Cross-border rules hampering ASEAN trade: industry

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Southeast Asian nations must coordinate efforts to cut cross-border red tape and promote regional road transport as they move towards a common market, industry players said Monday.

Better links among the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) could reduce transport costs while boosting intra-regional trade and economic welfare, they said.

ASEAN is working towards establishing by 2015 a single market and manufacturing base of about 600 million people.

But business leaders and other experts at an international forum said there are still too many bureaucratic hurdles to a free flow of regional goods.

"There is no holistic approach to the supply chain from the governments' perspective, from any government's perspective," said Steven Okun, vice-president for public affairs with Singapore-based shipping firm UPS.

He said "there isn't the political will yet for ASEAN to look at these as a group of 10 countries... If we can do it collectively, trade within ASEAN is really going to grow."

He was speaking at the World Economic Forum on East Asia (WEF), a gathering of global business leaders and regional politicians.

A WEF study released ahead of the meeting said that, although Singapore leads the world in facilitating trade, significant barriers remain in the rest of the ASEAN region.

Singapore kept the top rank it held in last year's study, but five other ASEAN members fell.

Barriers to trade in ASEAN "remain many and significant", primarily in border administration and transport infrastructure, said Thierry Geiger, a co-author of the study.

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