UNCTAD, as a world leader in statistics measuring the effects of non-tariff measures, is expanding and consolidating data collection in different regions. In October it was time for South-East Asia.
As part of a joint project to collect data on non-tariff measures in countries belonging to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), UNCTAD and the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) held a workshop on Non-Tariff Measure Data Collection Validation at the Ministry of Trade and Industry of Singapore on 5–7 October 2015.
The project promises to result in not only a set of data on non-tariff measures – a complex set of instruments used to evade free trade rules – but also research analysing the various impacts of such measures on international trade in countries in the ASEAN and East Asia region, including Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, the Lao People's Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam.
The Regional workshop in Singapore brought together national consultants and government representatives from each ASEAN country as well as representatives from UNCTAD and ERIA.
During the workshop, consultants presented work on non-tariff measure data collection and classification, and preliminary research on the connection between non-tariff measures and the development of trade in their countries. UNCTAD and government officials then validated the data and recognized the essentials of this exercise for ASEAN regional integration.
Furthermore, on 8–9 October 2015, UNCTAD representatives held a short training course for policy makers working within various ministries and agencies of the government of Singapore which provided a comprehensive overview of the non-tariff measure classification and data collection.
The training materials and agenda were built on an annual online training course on non-tariff measures and data collection held by UNCTAD. The trainers also brought to the training course recent and practical case studies based on the data collection and classification of non-tariff measures in the countries belonging to ASEAN.
Ms. Ng Bee Kim, the Director-General for trade from the Ministry of Trade and Industry of Singapore, said that the training "was of great value to the Singaporean government in understanding the importance of non-tariff measures and their implications for trade and development".
Both the training and the non-tariff measure dataset and analysis will greatly assist policymakers, researchers and negotiators in the region, especially in the context of the ASEAN Economic Community, which hopes to achieve regional economic integration in the near future, and in the context of the recently agreed Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal of which many countries in the region are part.
Earlier, at the third East Asia Summit (EAS) Economic Ministers’ Meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia that took place in August 2015, ministers acknowledged this project in a statement, saying they "welcomed the updates on the activities and research undertaken by ERIA, including … the collaboration with UNCTAD to improve database on non-tariff measures".