Thailand reports on proposal to consolidate all ASEAN FTAs into one 16-nation treaty

According to Srirat Rastapana, Thailand's Director-General of Trade Negotiations, Japan has proposed the consolidation of free-trade pacts with ASEAN into a single agreement for 16 countries - the 10 ASEAN members plus China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand.

Ms Srirat said China and Japan want to have negotiations announced at the ASEAN Summit in November 2012 in Cambodia. She added ASEAN had not yet agreed on a proposal and a working group was studying which facets would benefit the region, the Bangkok Post reported.

In 2010, trade between ASEAN and China, Japan and South Korea rose by 28.9% to $533.3 billion after a contraction in 2009. ASEAN trade with those three countries accounted for 26.1% of the region's total trade while direct investment from these countries to ASEAN rose 62.4% to $14.9 billion, up from $9.2 billion in 2009.

Ms Srirat, who is also chief of ASEAN negotiations with China, said about 90% of products traded between the two have no tariff under the free trade agreement. Both sides are in the process of cutting tariffs below 20% of products on the sensitive list by January next year.  ASEAN and China have also agreed on regulations regarding phyto-sanitary and technical barriers as there will be a focal point in each country to clear problems.