ASEAN-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement signed

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Singapore, Apr 15 (UNI) The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Japan have completed the signing of the ASEAN-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership (AJCEP) agreement, it was announced here today.

Singapore's Minister for Trade and Industry, Lim Hng Kiang, who signed the agreement for Singapore, said Singapore's consumers and business community stand to benefit from the Agreement.

Mr Lim explained that the AJCEP agreement is a significant one for Singapore.

''It covers 96 per cent of Singapore's trade volume, including Singapore's key chemicals, electronics, and leather products,'' he pointed out.

Tariffs for 173 products out of Singapore's top 200 items traded with Japan will go down to zero per cent when the agreement enters into force. This means immediate tariff elimination on 91 per cent of Singapore's total trade volume with Japan, he said.

''Beyond the tangible gains are strategic benefits, as the AJCEP agreement is a building block from the Japan-Singapore Economic Partnership Agreement (JSEPA), signed in 2002,'' said Mr Lim.

Deepened ASEAN-Japan relations through the AJCEP agreement also means another essential link between ASEAN and a key economic partner in the wider regional architecture, he added.

Besides market access through lower tariff concessions, the agreement also offers traders in Singapore the advantage of cumulation to more easily meet rules of origin (ROO). This means that traders can enjoy a larger sourcing base, as they will be able to use raw and intermediate materials from any of the AJCEP parties and enjoy preferential tariffs, he said.

The agreement also includes a chapter on Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures, which provides a platform for SPS issues to be raised, an element that industries have requested.

In addition to chapters on Trade-in-Goods, ROO, and SPS, other key elements of the Agreement are chapters in Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT), Economic Cooperation, and Dispute Settlement Mechanism (DSM), as well as the commitment to start negotiations on services and investments within one year after entry into force of the agreement.

The agreement was concluded after 11 rounds of negotiations, spanning four years. The substantial conclusion of the Agreement was announced in November last year at the ASEAN Summit in Singapore, and more recently, the agreement was signed by Ministers of ASEAN Member States and Japan.

The agreement will enter into force upon completion of domestic procedures of Japan and at least one ASEAN Member State. This is expected in the next few months, said Singapore's Trade and Industry Ministry in a statemet today.

Japan is ASEAN's second largest trading partner and Singapore's fifth largest trading partner.

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