ASEAN trade barriers fall, but will political barriers follow?

The new regional free trade agreement across ASEAN-China is off to a strong start: To date, about 99 percent of tariffs have been removed, with exemptions awarded to rice, tobacco and alcohol, along with scores of other sensitive items. Customs procedures are being harmonized and common standards applied. The regional economic integration across ASEAN has many observers comparing it to the EU. ASEAN countries have vast disparities developmentally, culturally, economically, and politically. Signatories will be absorbed at staggered dates, with the least developed countries like Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Burma to sign on 2015. Many investors are optimistic about tapping the potential high growth this particular FTA will bring, … [Read more...]

FTAs and Big Ag’s equivalent of the “financial innovations”

. The China-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) went into effect this year amid much anxiety by ASEAN. Years of stalling due to fears of a massive influx of already cheap and now subsidised Chinese goods that ASEAN countries cannot compete against finally fell amid the sudden loss of Western markets for Southeast Asian exporters in the crash of 2008. The fears haven't gone away. Barely hitting the news -and finally at that- are concerns faced by India in its free trade agreements (FTA) with Australia and New Zealand, as well as with the European Union and Japan. At issue are intellectual property (IP) regimes that use these instruments to harmonise protections (of seed varieties patented by agricultural multinationals as in the piece … [Read more...]