MANILA: Economic integration within Asean must be further enhanced if the region is to realise its potential as a significant world market, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said.
While Asean as a whole is now the sixth largest economy in the world, and peace and stability has allowed resources to be focused on economic growth, there is still a long way to go, he said.
“We have to bring down further the trade tariffs which still exist. WTO (World Trade Organisation) figures show average tariffs in Asean were around four percent in 2015. The work to bring them down to zero must be pursued vigorously,” Najib said in his keynote address at the Prosperity For All Summit organised by the Asean Business Advisory Council here today.
To achieve the forecasted economic size of US$9.2 trillion by 2050, there also has to be a 20 per cent reduction in fixed trade costs, he added.
“We need to work towards facilitative measures such as national single windows seamlessly linked to the Asean single window, and standardised customs procedures.
“Most of all, non-tariff barriers and measures – or NTBs and NTMs - must be reduced and ultimately removed. This is a stubborn world-wide problem, but it is in Asean’s own interests to lead the way in this endeavour,” Najib added.
Addressing about 1,000 participants from the region's public and private sectors, the prime minister said between 2000 and 2015, NTBs and NTMs in Asean actually rose from 1634 measures to 5975.
“This has to be checked and reversed,” Najib said. “NTBs and NTMs have to be reduced by 50 per cent. There is no alternative if we wish to be able to seize that prize. So huge, coordinated efforts are required to deal with this problem.”