The escalating trade war between the United States and China, should come as a stark reminder for the 10 ASEAN-member countries, that continuing to impose Non-Tariff Barriers (NTB's) would only rob them of the opportunities to exploit fully the advantages of a single regional market.
As leaders converge for their annual summit in Singapore next month, they need to put on the table an agenda, to discuss reducing or cutting surcharges imposed on a whopping 2,683 tariff lines, to show commitment, they are serious in opening up their respective markets.
A liberalised regional market, with a consumer base in excess of 630 million, should take into account the differing levels of economic development among economies, which means equitable liberalisation.
That has been the underlying principle, dictating ASEAN's free trade area, but that does not mean member economies should use that premise as an excuse to close their markets for some products indefinitely.
Both American and Chinese firms are already feeling the impact of the fallout from the trade war, which means, it is only a matter of time before ASEAN, where most of its companies export substantially to these markets, are adversely affected.
Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK