Effort to Expand Trade with Southeast Asia Sees Slow Start
An effort launched in November 2012 to expand trade and investment ties between the United States and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations has seen some progress, the State Department reported Oct. 9, but work toward more ambitious objectives remains ongoing. The U.S.-ASEAN Expanded Economic Engagement (E3) initiative identifies specific cooperative activities to facilitate two-way trade and investment, increase the efficiency and competitiveness of trade flows and supply chains throughout ASEAN, and build greater awareness of the commercial opportunities that the growing U.S.-ASEAN economic relationship presents. The department notes that work under E3 is helping to lay the groundwork for ASEAN countries to join high-standard trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and to further integrate markets as members seek to build an ASEAN Economic Community by 2015.
According to the fact sheet, achievements under E3 over the past year have included a visit to California by ASEAN economic ministers that, among other things, covered public policies that would support greater trade and investment, such as intellectual property protection and an open and fair investment climate; engaging on best practices in standards, rulemaking and conformity assessment in such areas as health supplements, medical devices and green chemistry; aligning standards activities between APEC and ASEAN in the areas of ethical business practices for small and medium-sized enterprises, energy efficient building standards, food safety standards and good regulatory practices; continuing work on trade and the environment; and expanding skills-based training for SMEs through a public-private partnership between the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council.
On the other hand, the two sides are still working on the negotiation of a bilateral trade facilitation agreement, which will include simplified customs procedures and increased transparency of customs administration; completion of a joint statement on shared principles for international investment, which will address market access, non-discrimination, investor protections, transparency and responsible business conduct; and the joint development of information and communications technology principles to guide policymakers on issues like cross-border information flows, localization requirements and the role of regulatory bodies.