The ASEAN agri-food industry has highlighted the need for the liberalisation of import tariffs and the harmonisation of food standards and regulatory processes to enhance agri-food trade and investment between ASEAN and the EU markets. At a session with the ASEAN Economic Ministers and the EU Commissioner during the recent 3rd ASEAN-EU Business Summit held in Hanoi, industry representatives proposed several key recommendations to facilitate greater trade. These include:

  • Reducing import tariffs and other non-tariff barriers;
  • Simplifying internal taxes and regulations in line with World Trade Organisation rules;
  • Achieving greater harmonisation and simplification of labelling rules for packaged goods;
  • Defining technical standards and product classification rules based on internationally-recognised standards such as the EU Codex Alimentarius guidelines; and 
  • Strengthening EU-ASEAN cooperation in other key areas such as capacity building

Presenting the Agri-Food Position Paper at the session, the representatives highlighted that tariffs and non-tariff barriers act as a hindrance to exports entering ASEAN countries. These barriers limit consumers’ choices and availability to a better range of quality products.

They proposed an increased focus on free trade agreements but noted the importance of ensuring that any concessions on tariffs are not compensated by the increase of internal taxation or non-tariff barriers.

The representatives, led by Mr Jean Rodesch, Vice President of Public and Legal Affairs, Pernod Ricard, pointed out that public-private partnerships are necessary in the process of harmonising food and regulatory standards in ASEAN. They emphasised that Governments should accept universal standards for regulatory data that respects innovation and new technologies which can facilitate trade.

FIA Executive Director, Bev Postma, who represented FIA on the agri-foods sector panel, said that a successful public-private partnership would require the private sector coming together to agree on a single set of priorities. It is also important that the Committees and Working Group of ASEAN create a conducive environment for the private sector to be readily engaged in technical discussion, she said.

Ms Postma described the Summit as a valuable platform for economic leaders and industry to come together and strengthen public-private dialogue in ASEAN.

“The sector-specific sessions with the economic Ministers and the EU Trade Commissioner in particular provided the agri-food industry with the opportunity to consult and discuss key priorities to enhance trade within the industry.

“FIA is honoured to have been part of the Summit, particularly as it was the first public opportunity to showcase the value of the ASEAN Food & Beverage Alliance (AFBA). As part of the Summit, the ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) called on the private sector to identify one point of contact per sector to serve as a conduit between the AEM and industry. The formation of AFBA is very timely, as ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) starts to work with industry towards regional economic integration by 2015,” she said. “There has never been a better time to accelerate the harmonisation of food standards and regulatory processes in ASEAN. With the 2015 goal looming, all parties appear to be in agreement that the private sector should be proactively engaged in the process of harmonisation. By working together, we can accelerate the removal of many of the unnecessary roadblocks and unleash the full potential of the agri food industry in ASEAN."