US Chamber Doubts ASEAN Can Attain Economic Integration by 2015

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WASHINGTON D.C. – The US Chamber of Commerce has cast doubt on ASEAN attaining a genuine regional economic integration by 2015 saying its member countries prefer to trade with the US and elsewhere instead of among themselves and members have not done much to harmonize product standards beyond the tariff cuts issue.Murray Hiebert, senior director of the Asia Department of International Division of the US Chamber of Commerce, told visiting Philippine journalists that ASEAN is still facing formidable challenges in its march towards a regional free trade bloc."The 2015 regional economic integration target or the ASEAN Economic Community is a moving target," Hiebert pointed out.Hiebert said that ASEAN has yet to harmonize its different standards of products to facilitate a seamless regional trading under an integrated economic community."ASEAN is a 570 million people market and as such is a competitive market but it is very difficult for each country to trade with each other if their standards are not harmonized because that would make doing business in ASEAN more expensive," Hiebert said.For instance, he cited the case of Kimberly Clark in Thailand for its failure to export to Vietnam because of product standards issue.Hiebert also noted that intra-ASEAN trade is limited to certain industries like electronics and garments because their market is not really the ASEAN region but elsewhere. …