Jakarta. Economic growth among member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations has consistently outperformed that of the global economy, but some initiatives remain work in progress, according to a new report.
Officially launched on Tuesday, the Asean Integration Report (AIR) 2019 showed Asean as the fifth largest economy in the world in 2018 with a combined GDP of $3 trillion.
In the same year, Asean became the fourth leading powerhouse in global trade by taking over 7.2 percent of global trade in goods and 6.6 percent in services.
Asean was also deemed an attractive proposition in the global investment floor, taking up 11.9 percent of the total global foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2018, placing them third after the European Union and the United States.
These milestones were rendered possible by a set of key initiatives, including tariff liberalization.
"As of May 2019, 99.3 percent of all tariffs have been eliminated by Asean-6 (Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand), while the corresponding figure for Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam is 97.7 percent," the report said.
Although intra-Asean tariffs have been virtually eliminated, Asean still needs to address non-tariff measures (NTMs), particularly since the general trend of rising NTMs globally could potentially be used to justify protectionist regulations.
"In Asean, whereas the average tariff rates decreased from 8.9 percent in 2000 to 4.5 percent in 2015, the number of NTMs had increased from 1,634 measures to 5,975 measures over the same period," the report said.
To realize Asean's five core elements of free flow of goods, services, investment, capital and skills, other initiatives also need to be taken. They include deepening and broadening intra-Asean trade and investment linkages, while simultaneously keeping markets open through strengthened partnerships with global economies.
Industry 4.0 also remains an important Asean agenda.
"We are seeing an intensification of dialogues on the Fourth Industrial Revolution across Asean communities. This is because you cannot work on the Fourth Industrial Revolution just from the economic perspective alone. For example, the issue of labor and education need to be taken into consideration as well," Julia Tijaja, the director of Asean Integration Monitoring Directorate, said on Tuesday at the Asean Secretariat building in South Jakarta.