RHTLaw Taylor Wessing Deputy Managing Partner and Chairman of ASEAN Plus Group Azman Jaafar expresses the importance of ASEAN to be a rules-based organisation as a coping strategy in response to the changing business environment, in The Jakarta Post

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing Deputy Managing Partner and Chairman of ASEAN Plus Group Azman Jaafar was featured in an article published by The Jakarta Post. The article was first published on 20 September 2017.

Greater Integration Vital for Asean to Benefit Business More

Source: The Jakarta Post ©

Date: 20 September 2017

Author: Linda Yulisman

Greater integration vital for ASEAN to benefit business more

With sound economic fundamentals, ASEAN appears to have a promising outlook ahead. Celebrating 50 years since it was founded this year, the group has become the world’s sixth-largest economy with a combined income of US$2.55 trillion and it is estimated to expand by 5.2 percent in the coming years. Deeper economic integration, which began with the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community at the end of 2015, is seen as a way for the 10-member bloc with a population of more than 500 million to further unlock its potential and better benefit business.

Singapore’s senior parliamentary secretary for the ministry of education and ministry of trade an industry, Low Yen Ling, said that greater integration would provide enormous opportunities for business people across the region.

“ASEAN’s journey into deepening economic integration is a continuous journey,” she said on the sidelines of ASEAN Summit 2017, organised by Singapore-based international law firm RHTLaw Taylor Wessing.

“It will always be a work in progress, something to work on together, and that is also a reflection of the rapidly changing world, not just in ASEAN, but also outside of the region.”

The Southeast Asian grouping has benefitted from the free flow of goods across its borders without tariffs in the past decade. It has also undertaken efforts to improve the ease of exporting in a wide range of sectors, such as automotive, cosmetics and medical equipment through reducing and simplifying regulations.

In its latest move in August, ASEAN launched an online portal – ASEAN Solutions for Investment, Services and Trade (ASSIST) – to allow companies to voice their concerns over non-tariff measures that impede trading of good within the region.

Low further said that when taking the ASEAN chairmanship next year, Singapore aimed to push for initiatives on e-commerce and the digital economyy in order to provide greater benefits for business, particularly micro, small and medium enterprises.

Vice president for public sector and government practice at consulting firm Frost & Sullivan, Richard Won, said that it would be crucial for ASEAN to bring a real impact to the private sector as a way to make the grouping more relevant to business.

It would be, therefore, necessary for the grouping to address two critical issues faced by businesspeople, namely the cost of doing business and the regulatory environment, he added.

“If we can help to reduce costs, make it easier to register business and increase trade and services, and also to have transparent rules within the bloc, that will be a dream come true for many businesses in the region,” he said.

The group is working on the creation of ASEAN Single Window that will enable exporters across the region to expedite customs clearance through online exchange of information between the member countries.

Since a few years ago, it has simplified the procedure for exporters seeking a certificate of origin for their products, a requirement to enjoy exemption of tariffs, through an online self-certification scheme.

Deputy managing partner and chairman of ASEAN Plus Group at RHTLaw Taylor Wessing Azman Jaafar acknowledged that it would be important for ASEAN to become a rules-based organisation, partly to cope with the changing business environment in the past two decades.

“It is not good for us to rely on the old ways of allowing personal judgement to get in the way of decision-making for business,” he told The Jakarta Post.

“If a business needs to be in a particular country, I think a rules-based economy would be very helpful instead of thinking about what we have to go to get the [business] license,” he said.

While ASEAN members were in the different stages of development, it would be necessary to give some of them time to adjust their national interests with regional interests, Jaafar said.