On 27-28 April 2017, the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) held a workshop on ‘Non-Tariff Measures (NTMs) in ASEAN’ in Geneva, Switzerland. The workshop was attended by reputable economists and policy analysts with distinctive publications on NTM issues, namely Prof Shujiro Urata (ERIA), Lili Yan Ing (ERIA), Rizqy Anandhika (ERIA), Abigail (ERIA), Ralf Peters (UNCTAD), Denise Penello Rial (UNCTAD), Christian Knebel (UNCTAD), Prof Olivier Cadot (University of Lausanne), Ken Itakura (Purdue University), Chedtha Intaravitak (Thailand Development Research Institute), Fabio Artuso (World Bank), Julien Gourdon (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), Jaime de Melo (University of Geneva) and Jean-Marc Solleder (University of Geneva).
The workshop was part of the ‘NTMs in ASEAN’ Project, which currently focuses on the analysis of NTMs in ASEAN. Data on NTMs in ASEAN countries has been entered into a website that can be accessed from asean.i-tip.org.
Prof Shujiro Urata, Senior Research Advisor to the President of ERIA, noted that simultaneous to the global trend of tariff reductions, there is a rising protectionist tendency. This kind of protectionism can take the form of NTMs, although not all NTMs are created with protectionist purposes as the primary objective. Therefore, it is important to deepen our understanding of NTMs.
ERIA and UNCTAD have formed a strong partnership for the NTM issues since 2014. UNCTAD’s Chief of Trade Information Section, Ralf Peters, emphasised that UNCTAD needed to look at local knowledge in the region whilst at the same time aimed to preserve standardised approaches that can be compatible at the global level. The importance of engaging the region cannot be separated from the fact that Southeast Asian region is recognised as growth engine for the world economy.
Moreover, some perspectives regarding NTM issues should be redefined. Prof Olivier Cadot from the University of Lausanne stressed the need to shift philosophy regarding NTMs from a ‘pure trade perspective’ that sees NTMs as protectionist measures, to a broader perspective ‘that combines trade perspective with optimal regulation and competition policy perspective.’
During the workshop, Prof Cadot highlighted some new important issues that have so far received little attention: (1) the trade of environmental goods that still face several restrictions from big economic powers, in both tariff and non-tariff forms; (2) the issues of government procurement and how the ASEAN approach can be relevant; and (3) some institutional arrangements to deal rationally with NTMs, taking examples from Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Myanmar (CLM countries) that showed substantial institutional progress on NTM issues.