19 August 2006
ASEAN wants agriculture to be in ASEAN-East Asia FTA
KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) — ASEAN does not discount the possibility of having a free trade agreement (FTA) with all East Asian countries as a whole, said the Philippines’ Department of Trade and Industry director Ramon Vicente T. Kabigting.
However, it must first consider including agriculture in the agreement for this to materialise, he told reporters when asked about the common position among ASEAN members on the matter.
"We do not resent it (ASEAN-East Asia FTA) but we want to talk about giving a chance for us to include agriculture," he said after the consultations of ASEAN senior economic officials with their counterparts from Japan and South Korea here Thursday.
An FTA with East Asia is likely to include the 10 ASEAN members and their six dialogue partners — Japan, China, South Korea, India, New Zealand and Australia. Commenting on Japan’s move not to include agriculture in the Malaysia-Japan FTA, Kabigting said: "They are compelled to do this because they want to take care of their domestic interest. This we can understand."
He said during the consultations earlier, officials from the respective member countries gathered information on the matter so that their economic ministers could have a rough idea.
"When the ministers meet next week before the consultations with dialogue partners, they will have some rough responses from each and everyone," he added.
To date, Thailand and Vietnam are among the ASEAN countries likely to push for agriculture in such an agreement.
Recently, ASEAN secretary-general Ong Keng Yong said an ASEAN-East Asia FTA would be possible in the next 10 years.
However, there are several hurdles as FTAs with developed countries are not easy to achieve because the systems and the bureaucratic thinking are considered different from that of ASEAN.
To achieve the goal, Ong said ASEAN should first iron out the differences among themselves, especially in harmonizing the rules of origin and issues relating to investment regimes.