The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Canada have agreed to conduct a joint feasibility study with the aim of forging a free trade area (FTA) agreement to bolster relationship from the current status as dialogue partner countries.
This developed after the economic ministers from ASEAN and Canada also held their 6th ASEAN-Canada Consultations at the sidelines of the 49th ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting (EAM) and Related Meetings here.
“Ministers agreed to launch exploratory discussions to examine the potential for a an ASEAN-Canada FTA,” said Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez, chair of the 49th AEM, in a statement read by Philippine head Trade and Industry Undersecretary Ceferino S. Rodolfo.
ASEAN and Canada ministers endorsed the terms of reference for a Joint Feasibility Study toward an ASEAN-Canada FTA. Ministers welcomed the completion of the Preliminary Joint Feasibility Study, which provides an overview of the ASEAN and Canada economies.
The study also highlights key bilateral trends in terms of trade in goods, services, and investment. It also examined each party’s broader approach to FTA negotiations and evaluates the potential benefits of an ASEAN-Canada FTA.
Representatives also discussed the progress made in the 2016-2020 Work Plan to implement the ASEAN-Canada Joint Declaration on Trade and Investment to bolster ASEAN-Canada dialogue on trade and investment.
They also noted the outcome of the inaugural ASEAN-Canada Trade Policy Dialogue,which proved to be an excellent opportunity for ASEAN member states and Canada to share and learn from each other.
Rodolfo explained that the possibility of an FTA between ASEAN-Canada based on the strong complementarities between the two as established in the current study, which noted that an FTA would be positive for both sides.
On the part of the Philippines, Rodolfo said that the Philippines has put on hold the planned bilateral FTA with Canada in deference to the proposed region-wide trade agreement.
While he noted of complementarities of both ASEAN and Canada, Rodolfo, who is serving as spokesman for the 49th AEM, said that the joint feasibility study will study deeper and could possibly establish that both can gain more by elevating their current economic relationship from being parties dialogue countries to FTA partners.
By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat | Manila Bulletin
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