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ASEAN member states to explore further ways to strengthen supply chains amid COVID-19 recovery

ASEAN member states to explore further ways to strengthen supply chains amid COVID-19 recovery

Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong attended the 28th ASEAN Economic Ministers’ retreat hosted by ASEAN chair Cambodia via video conference on Mar 16, 2022. (Photo: MTI)

SINGAPORE: Member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have agreed to explore further ways to strengthen supply chains in the region to bolster economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, said Singapore's Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) on Wednesday (Mar 16). 

Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong attended the 28th ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Retreat on Wednesday, hosted by ASEAN chair Cambodia via video conference. 

At the retreat, Mr Gan proposed three key areas where ASEAN could work together to drive economic recovery. 

These include the importance of continued unity and "open, rules-based regional economic integration" as member states navigate economic uncertainties such as inflationary pressure and economic disruption from "geopolitical complexities" and the pandemic.

He also said there was a need for ASEAN to act swiftly in response to current challenges, through strengthening regional supply chains and upgrading ASEAN’s free trade agreements.

ASEAN should also position itself as a "progressive and dynamic regional bloc" through cooperation in emerging areas such as digital and green economies.

The ASEAN member states agreed to explore further ways to strengthen supply chains in the region.

“ASEAN is currently working to extend the validity of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the Implementation of NTMs on Essential Goods to November 2024 and further expand the accompanying List of Essential Goods, in consultation with businesses, to include staple food items and products pertinent to the manufacturing and distribution of vaccines,” said MTI.

The meeting also called for accelerating the safe resumption of cross-border travel in the region.

The ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA) upgrade negotiations was also launched to maximise the potential of trade within ASEAN member states and deepen economic integration, said MTI. 

“The ATIGA upgrade negotiations aims to facilitate trade through addressing non-tariff barriers, promoting transparency, facilitating ASEAN member states' participation in global and regional supply chains, and responding to emerging issues such a digitalisation and the green economy, amongst others,” it added. 

“The launch of negotiations to upgrade the ATIGA, progress in the AANZFTA upgrade negotiations as well as initiatives in new and emerging areas such as digitalisation and sustainability will benefit our people and businesses, unlock the region’s economic potential and position us for the future,” said Mr Gan. 

The meeting also called for deeper cooperation in digital and green economies. The ministers discussed advancing work on an array of digital initiatives under the Bandar Seri Begawan Roadmap on Digital Transformation endorsed in 2021.

“These include foundational initiatives such as further expanding the ASEAN Single Window to ASEAN’s Dialogue Partners, establishing an ASEAN-wide Unique Business Identification Number Network, and the ASEAN Digital Economy Framework Agreement, amongst others,” said the ministry. 

The association is also taking steps to develop an ASEAN-wide strategy towards carbon neutrality, and to lay the foundation for a "common understanding on sustainability cooperation in economic agreements”, MTI added.

Mr Gan said: “Singapore supports Cambodia’s ASEAN chairmanship economic priorities.

"These will collectively strengthen regional supply chains to bolster recovery and ensure that our network of FTAs remains relevant, progressive, and business-friendly against the backdrop of global uncertainties."

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Source: CNA/yb(mi)

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