Manila: South-East Asian countries are moving closer towards integration with a proposed road map to integrate freight, transport and other logistics services to move goods more cheaply and efficiently, officials and documents said on Wednesday.
The initiative, to be signed by economic ministers of the 10-member Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean) meeting this week in Manila, aims to liberalize logistics services and enhance the regional bloc’s production base in line with Asean’s move to create a single market by 2015, a final draft of the road map showed.
The measures include enhancing competitiveness of Asean logistics service providers by expanding their capability and developing their human resources. Maritime cargo handling, storage and warehousing, freight transport agency services, courier services and customs clearance services are among the areas to be liberalized by 2013. Beginning this year, Asean will develop the region’s transport logistics corridor and identify the needs to connect gateways of member countries, the draft said.
By next year, Asean will implement a multilateral agreement to fully liberalize air freight services and sign a framework agreement on facilitation of interstate transport, it added.
“This road map provides concrete actions that Asean member countries shall pursue to achieve greater and significant integration of logistics services in Asean,” the draft document said.
“They are enablers because they make the economy run better to move the goods...at the same time, in themselves, they are big business,” said the Philippines trade assistant secretary Ramon Vicente Kabigting. “So it’s good to integrate.”
Asean economic ministers meet from Thursday to Monday. They also will have discussions with partners China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India. Asean groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam and comprises a community of 550 million people.
The regional bloc’s overall exports totalled $758 billion (more than Rs31 trillion) last year, 16.5% higher than in 2005, with all 10 members experiencing growth in total exports, a draft senior officials’ report said. The region’s imports for 2006 reached $655 billion, or 13% higher than a year before.