New AmCham-ERIA Briefing Series Tackles Trade

First up: addressing non-tariff measures

By Karmila Bain
Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The Economic Research Institute for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and East Asia (ERIA) and AmCham Indonesia hosted the first AmCham-ERIA ASEAN Briefing Series this month, focusing on non-tariff measures in free trade agreements (FTA) and regional trade agreements (RTA).

ERIA is a leading think tank devoted to original research on Southeast Asian issues. The July 13 event drew a full house to ERIA’s offices in Jakarta, indicating a strong interest in regional issues among AmCham members.

A Lin Neumann, Managing Director of AmCham Indonesia, called for a strengthening of ASEAN advocacy and information sharing to benefit the private sector and economic growth. “We want to attract foreign investment, grow the economy, bring foreign expertise and have the opportunities for global best practices,” he said.

Various non-tariff measures that impact trade are common in Indonesia including import quotas, local content regulations, informal cartels and sweeping issues like the 2014 Halal Law. 

Dr Doan Thi Thanh Ha, an ERIA economist, presented a brief overview on how government, academia, and the private sector understand non-tariff measures (NTMs).

“NTMs are policy measures, other than ordinary customs tariffs, that can potentially have an economic impact on international trade, such as changing quantities, prices, or both,” she said. “There is no judgment whether NTM is good or bad.”

She stressed that some NTMs are useful and necessary for protect consumer health and safety while other may serve special interests or serve to protect domestic players.

Dr Ha also spoke of possible actions to tackle challenges during the policy-making process in ASEAN, including transparency, assessment and regulatory divergence, development of domestic laws and their implementation, and the consideration of development gaps across ASEAN nations. She expressed her hope for NTM openness, stabilizing standards across ASEAN member states and overcoming barriers.

During the panel discussion, Naraya Soeprapto, head of Government Relations at Procter and Gable Indonesia; and Brasukra Gumilang Sudjana, Senior Officer on Trade Facilitation at the ASEAN Secretariat, shared their thoughts and knowledge on the issues. The discussion covered NTM objectives, protection scope and the feasibility of fostering foreign investment and local companies.

During the discussion, Soeprapto spoke of his company’s experience obtaining licenses and certification for fast-moving consumer goods products, which can be both time-consuming and difficult done through different Indonesian ministries. He acknowledged that the process has improved in recent years.

Sudjana spoke about the importance of information sharing across ASEAN nations and the private sector, bridging the gaps on NTMs between policymakers and the private sector, expanding ASEAN initiatives on transparency, and how improving notification and review processes are essential.

Led by moderator Dr Timothy Buehrer, Chief of Party at Nathan Associates Inc, the stage was set for a fruitful and engaging Q&A session, where both panelists and the audience shared feedback and information on company experiences coping with various non-tariff measures.

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