Service Market of AEC Needs to Open Up: Deborah Elms

Service Market of AEC Needs to Open Up: Deborah Elms

Service Market of AEC  Needs to Open Up: Deborah Elms
January 13
16:20 2015


The yearly Pacific Rim Business Forum, held by Marshall School of Business (University of Southern California) took place on 16-18/10/2014 at Sule Shangri-La Hotel, Yangon. TODAY Magazine interviewed executive director Dr Deborah Elms of Asian Trade Centre (Singapore) as follows.

How do you assess the implementation of AEC?
ASEAN members remain with different aims, with different patterns of implementation. Some performed very well but some are less than satisfactory. The whole AEC functioning by end-2015 has little possibility.

How is Myanmar doing as regards AEC?
Myanmar is making every effort in ASEAN. Its resolutions are being realized seriously, while vigorous reforms are oriented towards AEC aims. Myanmar is to be judged good if the reforms continue next year, when its ASEAN chair gives over. AEC regulations should enhance Myanmar competitiveness.

How important it is for the services market of ASEAN to open up?
There is a wide field of services for products. For example, in textiles are R & D, design, distribution, logistics, etc. Without liberaliza-tion of services, products will be hard put to flow. But many governments seem to have not much care for it. They often bring down tariffs to zero, but open up the services to alittle extent only. Without equitable liberation in services, national companies will not venture abroad.

With AEC there will be a free flow of skilled labour. It is doubtful Myanmar will be competitive enough in that aspect. How is it to be prepared for that?
That’s most government’s concern. I think there are two important factors for Myanmar. Firstly the government would like to have workers going abroad to have skilled labour. My personal observation is: some Myanmar migrant workers are coming back home to set up private busi-nesses. This is very important for Myanmar development. Next there should be more inward investment to help uplift the skills of local personnel, and that calls for inevitable libe-ralization of investment rules. Training of personnel by foreign companies is needed to help realize future potential of local workers. The government may well use this opportunity through the evolving AEC.

How is Myanmar contributing to the implementation of ASEAN Single Window?
Nothing yet. But the traffic of goods for the country will be much facilitated by ASEAN Single Window. In textiles, for example, it is necessary for equipment, machines and textiles to be imported with ease. Otherwise business will go to a contry like Vietnam with a better window for Trade facilitation.

We’ve heard research on Trans-Pacific partnership (TPP) is being undertaken. Its significance please.
The 12 – member TPP has Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei from ASEAN. Like AEC, it has strongly defined aims. Activities in services market is far advanced in TPP than AEC. So Vietnam could be very much favoured by inter-national investors, because it enjoys the rights and investment opportunities relevant to TPP. Vietnam is reaping better benefits. Unless Myanmar adopted good policies FDI would go to Vietnam and Malaysia rather than here.

Some AEC programmes are slowing down due to no timely implementation of commitments by ASEAN members. What’s your outlook?
It’s a big problem. In AEC there also are no procedure nor mechanism for effectiveness of Dispute Settlement and Compliance. The AANZFTA of ASEAN, Australia and New Zealand, has a process for dispute settlement so the organization could be a driver to the com-panies’ compliance. ASEAN may well have a Compliance Procedure of its own.

What would AEC mean to ASEAN members in challenges and opportunities?
The AEC’s bottom line is for the companies freely producing and selling across ASEAN. ASEAN integration into a very large market will mean all manner of economic growth and opportunities. As many ASEAN countries are given to intense competition in some sectors wider opening up of the market may become a challenge itself.

Which countries you think are best prepared for AEC?
Any Country already well integrated into the global economy will find AEC commitments less difficult to implement. I would argue that the TPP members are going to find AEC to be much easier than others, since the TPP com-mitments go far beyond the AEC in many ways. Plus, the biggest issue in implementation is really commitment from government. If a gover-nment has agreed to open up in the TPP or to the EU, this orientation is clearly in place.

According to Jakarta Post, the ASEAN Secretariat with 260 personnel only is hard put to tackle with the wide-ranging problems of ASEAN region. Dr Elms also talked about European Commission with 20,000 personnel and ASEC (ASEAN Secretariat) with 150-300 personnel for comparison . What about ASEC ability to deal with AEC?

I think ASEC is in great difficulties for having two jobs at the same time. Firstly the burdensome AEC Implementation and ASEAN administra-tion has a few personnel and fewer finances. The next bigger problem in financing ASEAN members is linked to resources made available to least developed countries. The financial paradigm would not work. If ASEC expected to manage the ASEAN’s transition there could really be a problem. If the present Secretariat were to help along individual members only, then it would go on working well.

In your opinion, how could foreign investments and economic reforms of Myanmar be affected by 2015 elections?
The major factor is: To what extent the newly elected government would willingly and faith-fully work for Myanmar’s integration into ASEAN and the global economic community. Inward investments will surely happen if the new government continues to open up the domestic market.

What’s your opinion on current Myanmar reforms?
Necessary reforms go on, hopefully not to slow down. More infrastructure development is crucial; also continued commitment to AEC transition.

Translated by-Khin Aung (Eng)


About Author



Related Articles


No Comments Yet!

There are no comments at the moment, do you want to add one?

Write a comment

Write a Comment

Print Edition

Connect with us


Print Edition

Today Exchange Rate