This month’s topics
Connecting the dots: EU–ASEAN consultations in Myanmar
Nay Pyi Taw, 11 September 2014. The European Union met the ASEAN Coordinating Committee on Connectivity (ACCC), the national coordinators for connectivity and the ASEAN Secretariat, in the first of a planned series of consultations. The ASEAN side explained its efforts towards intra-regional connectivity and the EU spoke about existing and future cooperation, notably through the support of the Master Plan for ASEAN Connectivity (MPAC).
Implementation progress on connectivity differs in its different areas. For physical connectivity, building of rail links and highways proceeds, yet with some gaps and huge financial requirements; for institutional connectivity, a number of agreements on enhanced economic integration exist, but their implementation is slow. Finally for people-to-people connectivity, an ASEAN sourcebook for primary and secondary schools is being launched, as well as a studies course for undergraduate students and a Virtual Learning Resources Centre (AVLRC).
Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) are considered key to funding infrastructure connectivity. The Philippines will host the ASEAN PPP Networking Forum in Manila in December 2014 with the support of EU (ARISE) and ERIA. EU will also sustain support for policy advice, exemplified by the proposal for a “pilot” ‘Facility’ (€ 1.1 million) to fund feasibility studies on connectivity. The ASEAN side encourages the Facility to begin in early 2015.
Asia Investment facility (AIF)
Brussels, 03 October: Following various information meetings and the discussion in Nay Pyi Taw on 11 September, the Agence Française de Development (AFD) prepared and presented a “technical assistance facility for connectivity and urban development in ASEAN” to Asian Investment Facility Finance Institutions Group (FIG). The technical assistance proposed aims at conducting feasibility studies for investment projects in ASEAN promoting greater connectivity within ASEAN and promoting sustainable urban development.
The investment projects related studies supported by the Facility will be related to:
a. transport infrastructure between and within ASEAN countries (railway links, maritime and port infrastructures, inland waterways), all low carbon emission systems;
b. energy infrastructure increasing security of energy supply between ASEAN countries; and
c. urban services (urban transport and traffic management, water and waste water, solid waste management).
The Finance Institutions Group (FIG) of the AIF provided a positive feedback on the proposal. This is a positive development. The final decision on funding will be taken in the coming two months; the next step will be the Asia Investment Facility (AIF) Board Meeting in Brussels on 14 November 2014.
EU Presents First-Ever ASEAN State of Education Report to ASEAN Ministers of Education
Vientiane, Lao PDR, 11 September 2014. The European Unionofficially presented theASEAN State of Education Report 2013 to the ASEAN Ministers of Education during a ceremony in the capital.
Mr. Michel Goffin, Charge d’affaires of the EU Delegation to Lao PDR, underlined the EU’s significant bilateral and regional support to education in the ASEAN and expressed his hope that the report will “provide quality information to national policymakers in ASEAN and will help assess the ASEAN educational landscape, share best practices and establish further cooperation through dialogue.”
Dr. Phankham Viphavanh, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education and Sports of Lao PDR, hosted the 8th ASEAN Education Ministers Meeting. He offered his appreciation to the European Union and praised the report as a valuable tool.
The Regional EU-ASEAN Dialogue Instrument (READI) has funded the Education Report. It assesses the ASEAN educational landscape and serves several purposes: (i) as a platform for ASEAN and EU policymakers to engage in a policy dialogue, to exchange best practices in education;(ii) as a basis to understand the actual situation in each ASEAN member state for the preparation of the Harmonisation of Qualification Framework and Quality Assurance. This framework will be funded by the EU-SHARE project, allowing for defining good practices and point to possible cooperation with Dialogue Partners.
The handover ceremony was attended by the ten ASEAN Education Ministers, ASEAN Deputy Secretary General for the Socio-Cultural Community, Ms. Dela Rosa Bala, Head of the ASEC Education Division, Mr. Mamat, and some 200 delegates. Deputy Prime Minister Phankham Viphavanh particularly praised the performance of READI Team Leader Stefan Hell and stated that his “assistance has been invaluable”.
ASEAN Integrated Market for Cosmetics
Jakarta, 1-2 October. Trade in cosmetics has seen significant growth over the years. The cosmetic market in ASEAN Member States accounted for an estimated total value of US$13.7 billion in 2011, US$15 billion in 2012 and about US$16.2 billion in 2013.
Following the completion of an impact study of the ASEAN Harmonised Cosmetic Regulatory Scheme (AHCRS), The EU ARISE project sponsored a two-day workshop for Cosmetics Regulators in ASEAN Member States, presenting the results of the study and discussing ways forward.
The ASEAN Harmonised Cosmetics Regulatory Scheme entered into force in 2008. The impact study, conducted five years after implementation had begun, now shows the benefits of regional legal harmonisation in term of easing business in ASEAN for producers and for increasing trade volumes. It also shows that some features of the Scheme can be improved in particular the discrepancy among “post market surveillance” systems implemented by Member States’ regulatory agencies stands out. It results in differences in practice of monitoring the safety of the products placed on the market.
In the second part of the workshop, an ARISE expert shared EU Post Market Surveillance practices and experience. This was aimed at further developing a common understanding of requirements and strategies for Post Market Surveillance implementation within ASEAN. It also created a basis towards a better understanding of international practices and the need to promote convergence of regulations in the cosmetics market.
ASEAN Customs Risk Management Workshop
Jakarta 23-25th September: an essential feature of the ASEAN Economic Community is the harmonisation of the customs environment, the essential elements of which are common law, procedures, processes, documents and techniques.
A key success factor is the promotion of trust and operational cooperation between custom administrations in enforcing regulations, in order to achieve acceptable levels of compliance. Modern customs procedures require risk management and an audit-based approach. Risk management is now considered an integral part of all business planning. It follows a logical and systematic step-by-step approach, which improves decision-making and is thus a reliable way to avoid or minimize losses. It also helps managers make good use of available resources.
For customs authorities, risk management helps match customs priorities to resources. It is used as an effective means of meeting both national and regional objectives. Under structured risk management programmes, legitimate businesses are provided with concessions, including lower rates of physical inspection of their goods, on condition that certain criteria are respected. These relate for example to their ensuring security of the international supply chain. In turn this permits customs authorities to concentrate their resources on higher-risk transactions.
To assist ASEAN Member States achieve this goal, the EU ARISE project ran a three-day workshop for ASEAN customs authorities. The workshop examined international and regional best practices and shared ASEAN Member States’ experiences in risk management. Italso discussed strategies to introduce an approach to risk management within ASEAN, based on the World Customs Organization Risk Management Compendium. Finally it further enhanced participants’ understanding of risk management principles and techniques and their effective application in international trade and border management; and identified priority areas for further technical assistance.
The workshop was well appreciated by ASEAN Member States. The recommendations will be presented to the Customs Enforcement and Compliance Working Group (CECWG) for consideration of follow-up actions.
EU Delegations discuss further support to ASEAN Economic Integration
Ho Chi Minh City, 26 September 2014. The EU Delegation to Viet Nam facilitated a meeting among EU Delegations in ASEAN Member States. EU cooperation and trade diplomats discussed a first draft Identification Fiche (IF) for a regional consolidated programme to support sustainable and inclusive economic integration & trade in ASEAN. This assistance should address both ASEAN economic integration and individual countries’ “Aid for Trade” needs from 2016 to 2020.
The volume of EU TRTA (Trade Related Technical Assistance) to the region which was previously provided mainly at bilateral level through multiple individual projects will globally decrease in the period 2014-2020, compared to the previous Multi-annual Financial Framework MFF 2007-2013 under the “Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI)”. At the same time many projects and programmes approved until 2013 are still being implemented and ASEAN countries, in particular the middle income graduated countries Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia will receive less EU Aid for Trade funding. However allocations to Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Myanmar shall be preserved.
The question was how to best continue supporting ASEAN economic integration, along with addressing specific national needs in a single consolidated programme. Participants agreed that an overall regional approach may trigger more coherence to EU development cooperation in the region; however specific national needs may involve different time frames and implementation modalities. Any future programme will thus require creativity and flexibility.
These initial ideas will now be shared with the ASEAN side and country needs discussed with the respective stakeholders and governments by each individual Delegation; the idea being that detailed design will be conducted during the first semester of 2015.
COMPASS workshop ASEAN Statistical Community
Jakarta, 15-16 October. The EU COMPASS project organised a National Coordinators workshop at the ASEAN Secretariat. The meeting gathered staff from the ASEAN Secretariat and from the 10 member states’ statistical offices.
The purpose was to discuss the findings of the inception period, in key areas such as trade in goods, trade in services, foreign direct investment, information technology and dissemination, institutional building and monitoring integration. In addition, training needs for statistical development, statistical data needs for ASEAN integration monitoring and how COMPASS could use and support the ASEAN-help-ASEAN initiatives were covered.
The workshop attendants prepared recommendations to strengthen coordination to yield the benefits of COMPASS. The workshop was held back-to-back with the ASEAN Community Statistical System (ACSS) Sub-Committee on Planning and Coordination. Thus, the results of the COMPASS workshop could feed directly into the draft Strategic Plan 2016-2020. The recommendations on institutional strengthening aspects will be conveyed to the ASEAN Community Statistical System Committee whose meeting will take place on 15 & 15 October in Nay Pyi Taw.