Business Standard (India)
Press Trust of India / Kuala Lampur
July 9, 2009

www.business-standard.com

The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) will be a complete free trade area next year and regionally integrated for its six most mature economies when duties on most of products are eliminated.

The move will significantly reduce the cost of doing business and boost ASEAN’s attractiveness as an investment destination, said P Ravindran, the Senior Director of the ASEAN Economic Co-operation Division at Malaysia’s Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI).

And, hopefully, this would help to boost total regional trade beyond the current $451 billion as well as investment inflows above $16 billion and enable ASEAN to compete with large regional markets such as China and India, he added in a media briefing yesterday.

Come Jan 1, 2010, six of the 10 Asean states — Brunri, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, will be a completely free trade area where duties on most of the products are eliminated. The other four Asean members, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam, will join the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) in 2015.

Ravindran said an integrated regional market offered Asean countries immense opportunities and "comfort" during the current economic downturn.