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Singapore ratifies ASEAN Trade in Services Agreement

Khmer Times | 7 April 2021

Singapore ratifies ASEAN Trade in Services Agreement

by Brian Badzmierowski

Singapore has ratified the ASEAN Trade in Services Agreement (ATISA) and become the first ASEAN member to do so.

ATISA was signed on Oct 7 last year to boost economic cooperation between ASEAN members and streamline their service sectors.

One of the key components to ratification is the need for members to change their Schedules of Commitments under the ASEAN Framework Agreement (ATISA’s predecessor) from a positive list approach, to a negative list approach with specific timelines.

A positive list approach requires listing the sectors planned to liberalise whereas a negative list approach requires the listing of sectors exempt from liberalisation.

“The negative listing approach under ATISA provides greater transparency on the details of current services regime in AMS [ASEAN member states], thus providing service-suppliers a higher level of confidence on the region’s economy,” ASEAN said last year.

Ministry of Commerce spokesman, Seang Thay, said that the terms of ATISA have been translated from English to Khmer and are currently in review by relevant ministries before being sent to the Council of Ministers, the National Assembly and the Senate prior to being presented to the King for promulgation.

“We expect to ratify this agreement within this year, ” said Thay.

As reported by the Business Times, Singapore informed the ASEAN secretary-general of its decision and will have to immediately conform to the regulations listed within the ATISA.

In a Facebook post, Singapore’s Minister for Trade and Industry, Chan Chun Sing said: “The agreement will help strengthen services-related trading arrangements between AMS [ASEAN member states] in all services sectors including professional services, telecommunications, financial services, computer and related services and distribution and logistics services.”

He said the combined ASEAN markets represented Singapore’s third-largest services export destination in 2019. In 2019, Singapore exported services worth $27.3 billion to ASEAN members.

Singapore’s services sector accounted for 50.6 percent of ASEAN’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019 as well as providing more than 85 percent of its employment.

The ministry said benefits to ratifying ATISA, include increased transparency, regulatory certainty and reducing beyond-the-border barriers for companies.

It also “reduces or removes services-related restrictions for companies on the number of suppliers, total value of transactions and total value of foreign investment”, the ministry said.

It added that under ATISA, more than 70 percent of service sectors will be fully open and that “Singapore businesses can also own more than 51 percent of foreign equity shareholding rights in these sectors, with some allowing up to 70 percent of foreign equity limits.”

 source: Khmer Times