ASEAN economic ministers to sign road map

Manila, August 22:

Southeast Asian countries are moving closer toward integration with a proposed road map to integrate freight, transport and other logistics services to move goods more cheaply and efficiently, officials and documents said today.

The initiative, to be signed by economic ministers of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting this week in Manila, aims to liberalise logistics services and enhance the regional bloc’s production base in line with ASEAN’s move to create a single market by 2015, a final draft of the road map showed.

The measures include enhancing competitiveness of ASEAN logistics service providers by expanding their capability and developing their human resources. Maritime cargo handling, storage and warehousing, freight transport agency services, courier services and customs clearance services are among the areas to be liberalised by 2013.

Beginning this year, ASEAN will develop the region’s transport logistics corridor and identify the needs to connect gateways of member countries, the draft stated.

By next year, ASEAN will implement a multilateral agreement to fully liberalise air freight services and sign a framework agreement on facilitation of interstate transport, it added. “This road map provides concrete actions that ASEAN member countries shall pursue to achieve greater and significant integration of logistics services in ASEAN,” the draft document stated.

“They are enablers because they make the economy run better to move the goods. Also, they are big business,” said Philippine trade assistant secretary Ramon Vicente Kabigting. “So it’s good to integrate.”

ASEAN economic ministers meet Thursday to Monday. They also will have discussions with partners China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India.

ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam and comprises a community of 550 million people.