THE Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) should seek to harmonize the process of setting up businesses to attract more foreign investment, a business advisory body to the regional bloc said.

During the ASEAN 2017 Dialogues: Business Beyond Borders forum yesterday in Makati City, ASEAN-Business Advisory Council Executive Director Gil Gonzales said that aside from fast-tracking business processes, the 10-member bloc should also make moves to harmonize it across the region.

“All our efforts should be through that. There are various models for starting a business. Singapore can do it within a day. With us, it is six months. A lot can be done at a national level,” he said.

Mr. Gonzales said that the current set-up slows the process of foreign investors locating in the country.

“We’re talking about stating a business in the Philippines where there’s a lot of homework to do. We’re talking about starting a business in other ASEAN countries. At some point, you should try to harmonize, if you can,” said Mr. Gonzales.

He said that it would further boost the ASEAN integration agenda, benefiting micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) the most.

“Business should cut across all sectors. All these MSMEs, we want them to be able to work in an environment where there is easier access,” he added.

Mr. Gonzales noted that the ASEAN Single Window, which has started its initial roll-out stage and is expected to be out by December, is a key step on the direction of unified business processes.

The single window will connect the Philippines’ single window of trade-related agencies with those of its ASEAN counterparts, with a rationalization and harmonization of all trade data.

This is expected to bolster trade within the region.

As of April, commodities exported to ASEAN member countries comprised 16% of the total exports that month, valued at $767.73 million, which was up 6.1% from the previous year, Philippine Statistics Authority data show.

Imports on the other hand were valued at $1.741 billion, accounting for 25.4% of total imports, and down 0.8% from a year earlier.

“Let’s fast-track many of these reforms so we can really feel the impact of this AEC (ASEAN Economic Community). So people can say that it is really working and is really relevant,” said Mr. Gonzales. — Elijah Joseph C. Tubayan