The integration of standards for trade in ASEAN is important for enabling it to achieve economic unity and create a single market. It is especially true for the agro-food sector on which the economic growth of majority of ASEAN countries depends.
The agriculture and agro-based industries is counted for providing high levels of employment in several ASEAN countries. The sector is a significant and crucial contributor to the Gross Domestic Product or GDP of the ASEAN nations. The sector’s contribution to GDP of countries like Indonesia amounts to 3.5 per cent and 13.5 per cent in case of Philippines.
In spite of playing a key role in economies of ASEAN countries, the food and agro sector’s potential still remains unexploited. There is a strong role of harmonisation of science-based regulations and standards for enabling trade and investment in the region’s agro-food industry. The role of removal of technical barriers to trade (TBTs) and the alignment of the region’s regulatory frameworks with internationally recognised standards are also important for the purpose of intra- and extra-regional food trade.
The role of the private sector in this economic integration has been also widely recognized. ASEAN aims to harmonise the standards for trade in the region. For this, it seeks to collaborate with the member states and address food issues, regulatory, technical and market information, capacity building, as well as leveraging local, regional and international networks for assisting in the unification efforts of the ASEAN countries.
The efforts will be to make exports easy for small, medium and large companies. The companies will also be able to enter new markets and grow their trade potential. This will help business and consumers both who will have wider choice of affordable and high quality goods and services. Customers will be able to access new and innovative products quickly at competitive prices.