One third of ASEAN trade to be intra-regional by 2020

Posted on May 23, 2014

TRADE among members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is expected to increase to a third of their total trade by 2020 as barriers are further eliminated next year, Malaysia’s Trade minister said yesterday.

“When we started 15 years ago, it [intra-ASEAN] trade was at 15% [of total trade]. Now, it’s at 25%. I believe it will grow to 30% by 2020,” visiting Malaysian Minister for International Trade and Industry Dato Sri Mustapa bin Mohamed said, at the World Economic Forum on East Asia 2014 panel discussion “Connect on Trade: Lifting Barriers to Growth”, yesterday in Makati City.

ASEAN -- composed of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam -- aims to transform the region into a single market and production base where goods, services, investments, and skilled labor move freely, beginning Dec. 31, 2015.

Data from the ASEAN web site showed that the organization’s total trade -- composed of trade within and outside the region -- was at $2.388 trillion in 2012.

Intra-ASEAN trade, however, stood at $598.242 billion, only 25% of the total.

Mr. Mohamed said he expects the share of trade among ASEAN countries to grow as their economies continue to develop.

Moreover, tariffs on 99% of goods traded within the region have already been eliminated since 2010, he said.

“Non-tariff barriers are the remaining issue and ASEAN countries are already working on it,” he said.

The Trade official, however, said that he expects the percentage of intra-ASEAN trade will not go beyond 30% as China will remain the biggest trading partner of each Southeast Asian country. -- Daryll Edisonn D. Saclag