Thailand persuading ASEAN to eliminate non-tariff barriers

Firm in its belief that free trade leads to greater prosperity, Thailand will use its chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to persuade all ten members states to eliminate non-tariff barriers, a move that would benefit foreign investors manufacturing in Thailand and the region as well as local businesses.

Thailand is planning take up the issue when Ministers of Commerce from around the region hold a meeting next week of the ASEAN Trade Facilitation Joint Consultative Committee. ASEAN has forged a free-trade zone among its member states called the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) and made great strides in reducing and eliminating tariffs. Non-tariff barriers, such as differing regulations and standards among countries, remain an obstacle, Thai officials said.

Free trade can be a hot-button topic in some countries and communities, however, and so Thai officials said they would urge other ASEAN countries to be transparent and consult with stakeholders and the public to build support for the freer flow of goods, services, people, and investments.

“Each country should hold public hearings with all stakeholders and open for any comments from them before each measure takes effect in order to reduce contentious issues and trade obstacles,” said Auramon Supthaweethum, Director-General of the Trade Negotiations Department, Thai Ministry of Commerce.

Southeast Asia’s trade facilitation framework should be in line with standards of the World Trade Organization (WTO), such as the establishment of a national trade facilitation committee and information center, she added.

ASEAN will not be negotiating trade issues in a vacuum. The meeting will have nine dialogue partners: China, Japan, South Korea, the US, Canada, India, Australia, New Zealand, and Russia.

ASEAN is Thailand’s biggest trading partner. In 2018, trade with the region was worth $114 billion, an increase of 13 percent from 2017.

Photo courtesy of