Sat, 19 Jul 2003

RI, RP considering establishment of trade forum

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The Philippines and Indonesia, two members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), are considering the setting up of a forum aimed at fully implementing AFTA in the trade relations between the two countries.

The proposal to establish the forum, which will be known as the Philippines-Indonesia Trade Dialog, was presented by Philippine Trade and Industry Secretary Manuel A Roxas II to his Indonesian counterpart Rini MS Soewandi on the sidelines of the Informal ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting held from July 12 to July 13 in Jakarta, according to a press release from the Philippine embassy in Jakarta made available to The Jakarta Post on Friday.

Rini welcomed the proposal, according to the embassy.

The embassy quoted Roxas as saying that trade relations between the two countries had been strengthened following the full implementation of the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (AFTA) this year. AFTA requires the six senior members of ASEAN -- Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Brunei Darussalam -- to cut import tariffs on all commodities to a maximum of five percent.

However, he said, there were some difficulties concerning implementation that had prevented the business sectors of the ASEAN member states from fully enjoying the benefits of AFTA.

He did not specify what these were, but businessmen have often complained that despite AFTA, several ASEAN members continued to protect their industrial sectors by setting up non-tariff barriers on products from fellow ASEAN members.

The Philippines-Indonesia Trade Dialog is aimed at fully implementing the AFTA principles.

"This (the Philippines-Indonesia Trade Dialog) will not be a breakaway splinter of ASEAN. On the contrary, it will mean that the two countries will respect their membership in ASEAN, but will focus on administrative measures to facilitate the liberalization policies of ASEAN," one of Roxas' delegation was quoted by the embassy as saying.

Roxas was optimistic that the trade dialog would be effective as the Philippines and Indonesia had very strong historical and cultural ties, as well as obvious geographical links.

"An Indo-Fil Trade and Investment Axis may well be in the making. And this could be a very practical building-block approach to implementing AFTA and the long term vision of ASEAN," he said.