Indonesia commits to ASEAN single market plan

Ary Hermawan, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The government said Monday it would draft a new road map setting out revised economic development policies in line with the planned creation of the ASEAN single market.

"The road map will be completed by November this year and it will detail the reform programs that we intend to institute," Anggito Abimanyu, the head of the Finance Ministry's Fiscal Policy Agency, told reporters Monday.

Anggito said the acceleration of ASEAN economic integration was one of the issues discussed during a meeting of the region's finance ministers in Chiang Mai, Thailand, last week.

"And this acceleration will undoubtedly lead to changes in our long-term economic vision," he said.

ASEAN members agreed last year in Kuala Lumpur to expedite the efforts to create a single market by bringing it forward to 2015, five years ahead of schedule, amid fears of competition from China and India.

Despite the wide disparities, and often conflicting interests, in the region, it is hoped that integration will unite the 10 Southeast Asian countries into a European-style single market for the free flow of goods, services and investment.

Anggito said Indonesia would first have to reform its excessively bureaucratic customs procedures and classifications.

"A standardized taxation system is not possible for the widely divergent countries in the region, but their systems definitely need to be harmonized," he said, adding that integration would also require reforms to the bond and equity markets, and the overhauling of the regulations governing the non-bank financial sector.

He said that both great challenges and opportunities lay ahead as the global economy slowed down, even though China was still likely to achieve double-digit growth this year. Volatility in the capital markets and commodity prices were among the factors that could adversely impact on Indonesia, he explained.

"It's a good thing that Japan's economy has improved," he said, "and we may still increase our exports to South Korea now that it has signed a free-trade agreement with the United States."

Japan and South Korea are among Indonesia's main export markets.

With a bigger market, Anggito said Indonesia could achieve double-digit growth in a few years after the integration process took hold as it would likely benefit from more investment from countries such as Singapore and Malaysia.

ASEAN secretary-general Ong Keng Yong was quoted by Bloomberg as saying in Chiang Mai that trade within the 10-member group had tripled in the past decade, rising to over $300 billion today.

Inter-ASEAN trade accounts for about 25 percent of the ASEAN members $1.44 trillion-worth of global trade annually, he said. Trade between ASEAN and the Middle East had also risen as higher oil prices had boosted wealth and imports in the latter.

"As we integrate, we should buy and sell more from each other, so when growth in overseas markets declines, ASEAN countries will be able to pick up the slack," Ong said.
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