Starting the first day of 2010, Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand can import and export almost all goods across their borders at no tariff.
As of 1 January, for ASEAN-6 an additional 7,881 tariff lines will come down to zero tariffs, bringing the total tariff lines traded under the Common Effective Preferential Tariffs for ASEAN Free Trade Area (CEPT-AFTA) to 54,457 or 99.11%. Additionally, with the reduction, the average tariff rate for these countries is expected to further decrease from 0.79% in 2009 to just 0.05% in 2010. In 2008, intra-ASEAN import value of commodities for these 7,881 tariff lines amounted to US$ 22.66 billion, or 11.84% of ASEAN-6 import value within ASEAN.
The tariff lines include final consumer products such as air conditioners; chilli, fish and soya sauces; as well as intermediate materials such as motorcycle components and motor car cylinders. Other products include iron and steel, plastics, machinery and mechanical appliances, chemicals, prepared foodstuff, paper, cement, ceramic and glass sectors.
The elimination of tariffs by ASEAN-6 underscores ASEAN’s commitment to dismantle tariffs and keep intra-ASEAN trade open. It will also serve as a catalyst for the development of the single market and production base projected by the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Blueprint.
The actual impact and how much this final instalment will be translated as savings for consumers will depend on the market dynamics of the respective ASEAN-6 countries. The Secretary-General of ASEAN, Dr Surin Pitsuwan, said that “We sincerely hope that all parties will act to ensure that the man on the street will benefit from these reductions in tariffs.”
As for the business community, especially the downstream producers, Dr Surin said that they also stand to gain. “Lower cost of inputs will allow the business community a wider choice of goods, and in the process, they will move towards becoming more competitive globally, as envisaged in the AEC Blueprint,” he added.
The CEPT-AFTA covers the whole range of products traded by the ASEAN Member States and provides for the gradual reduction in tariffs of these products, which has been ongoing since 1993. Under the CEPT-AFTA schedule for tariff reduction, each ASEAN Member State is allowed to place their products in the normal track, where the commitment is for the tariffs to be reduced to zero by 2010 for ASEAN-6 and 2015 for the remaining four countries, namely Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Viet Nam. In 2010, these countries will also see tariff reductions under the CEPT-AFTA commitments to 5%, where the average tariff rate will decrease from 3% in 2009 to 2.61%.
Under the CEPT-AFTA, agricultural products such as tobacco, coffee, live animals and animal products, which come under the Sensitive List (SL), will have their tariffs reduced to 5% on 2010 and to zero tariff by 2015. The Highly Sensitive List (HSL), comprising rice, will have their tariffs capped on a specified date. As for the General Exclusion List (GEL), the tariffs will remain based on factors such as national security and morals/health/aesthetic/archaeological grounds (e.g.: weapons and opium). As of today, 487 tariff lines or 0.89% of tariff lines for ASEAN-6 still remain in the SL, HSL and GEL categories.
Besides tariff liberalisation, ASEAN is also embarking on parallel initiatives in trade facilitation to complement tariff reduction. ASEAN is also actively working on formulating streamlined and simplified customs procedures for clearance of goods, eliminating non-tariff measures, developing the ASEAN Single Window and the ASEAN Trade Repository, improving investment protection, providing for dispute settlement and better Intellectual Property Rights regime and removing the obstacles hindering the movement of professional and skilled workers.
(Source: http://www.aseansec.org/24146.htm )