AEC working on helping SMEs, removing non-tariff barriers: Lim Hng Kiang

SINGAPORE - Minister for Trade and Industry (Trade) Lim Hng Kiang outlined on Tuesday (May 31) the work being done by the Asean Economic Community (AEC) in three key areas under its 2025 agenda.

They comprise helping small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to benefit regional integration, removing non-tariff barriers and facilitating news ways of doing business.

Speaking at the Asean Conference 2016, Mr Lim said the AEC 2025 Blueprint also seeks to encourage sustainable growth through the use of green technology and energy; to foster productivity growth through innovation, technology and human resource development; and to intensfy cooperation in research and development that is designed for commercial application.

For SMEs, Mr Lim said businesses can look forward to the Asean Single Window and the Asean self-certification scheme this year.

The Asean Single Window will expedite customs clearance, reduce transaction time and costs, and make trade seamless through the cross-border electronic exchange of information among member states.

The ASean self-certification scheme will allow authorised companies to self-certify that their goods meet the requirements for preferential treatment.

"Companies will be able to enjoy smoother and faster clearance of goods within Asean, which will translate into lower business costs and definitely help our SMEs," said Mr Lim.

The minister said also that the grouping will seek to eliminate non-tariff barriers ranging from cumbersome import licensing procedures and other import and export requirements, to the ineffective implementation of existing commitments in some countries so that "businesses can operate in a transparent, stable, and predictable environment."

Mr Lim said the AEC will also address new areas relevant to the needs of modern businesses such as e-commerce and other emerging trends in manufacturing.

Touching on AEC's key achievements, Mr Lim said that as of end-Dec 2015, Asean has collectively completed 93 per cent of high priority measures and about 80 per cent of all initiatives. Work to implement the remaining measures will continue this year, he added.