(Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) The US-ASEAN Business Council met with the ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) yesterday to discuss trade and investment issues both as they relate to ASEAN integration and individual economy business environments. Led by Council Senior Vice President Walter Lohman, the delegation included senior executives from The Boeing Company, Cargill Inc., General Electric, Merck and Co. Inc., Oracle Corporation, PricewaterhouseCoopers, UPS and Yum! Brands, Inc.
During the consultation, the Council noted the progress that ASEAN is making to create a single market and production base. The Ministers' decision to recommend to the Leaders that the creation of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) be accelerated by 5 years from 2020 to 2015 was welcomed by the Council. "US companies see great benefit in the potential of an ASEAN single market. Accelerating and deepening integration will allow both sides to fully realize that benefit", said Mr. Lohman. "We were quite encouraged by the emphasis the Ministers place on engaging the private sector in the process. We found them quite actively interested in our perspectives on the way forward," he added. The delegation commended the Ministers' decision to designate logistics as the 12th priority sector for accelerated integration. Supporting ASEAN's decision, the Council provided several proposals for the draft roadmap that will serve as the basis for the liberalization and economic integration of this sector.
At the meeting, the Council also urged ASEAN member countries to take steps to facilitate ever greater levels of trade and investment, including provision of adequate IPR protection, standards harmonization, and reduction of tariff and non-tariff barriers. In addition, the Council's Food and Agriculture Committee provided recommendations in the area of food safety and bio-technology utilization.
The Council also welcomed the signing by USTR and AEM of an ASEAN-US Trade and Investment Framework Arrangement (TIFA), and the high level representation of the US at the AEM meetings. "Ambassador Schwab's presence here and the signing of the TIFA are both major developments in the relationship with ASEAN. Aside from the direct way they facilitate discussion on business issues, they are avenues for the US government to engage more directly in the economic life of the region. USTR deserves a lot of credit for making the TIFA and AEM-US consultation happen," said Mr. Lohman.
In addition to its annual consultations with the AEM itself, the Council delegation held bilateral meetings with USTR Susan Schwab; Ministers from Cambodia, Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam, ASEAN Secretary-General Ong Keng Yong and US Ambassador to Malaysia Christopher LaFleur.