The Association of Southeast Asia Nations (Asean) has announced plans to upgrade existing free trade agreements with China, Japan and South Korea in an effort to boost trade relations.
Malaysia’s Minister for International Trade and Industry Mustapa Mohamed chaired a recent Asean economic ministers meeting with Japan, South Korea and China. He said: “The FTA upgrades will be comprehensive and cover many areas, including goods, services and investments”.
In 2014, total trade between Asean and China reached $366.5bn, followed by Japan ($229bn) and South Korea ($79.8bn).
According to Mustapa, 2015 will be a challenging year for Asean economies due to the current market turmoil. “However, we feel that prospects of increasing trade between Asean and the three countries remain positive,” he said, adding that the upgrades to the free trade deals will help Asean reach its 2020 trade targets. These are set at $1 trillion with China and $200bn with South Korea.
“To achieve $1 trillion in trade with China by 2020, for example, we will require more trade facilitation measures and need to look more closely into tariffs,” Mustapa said.
Mustapa said that during their meeting, the Asean ministers discussed with their counterparts from the three East Asian countries on ways to upgrade the FTAs.
“We are all committed, though we still have some way to go, and we hope to achieve some progress between now and November, when our country leaders meet for the Asean Summit,” he said.