The Japanese business sector expressed its willingness to cooperate in assisting ASEAN with its post-2015 development. The private sector representatives also voiced confidence on the growth prospects of the ASEAN economy. These were conveyed during the 8th Dialogue between the Federation of Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry in ASEAN (FJCCIA) and H.E. Le Luong Minh, Secretary-General of ASEAN, held on 21 August in Kuala Lumpur at the side-lines of the 47th ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting. The Dialogue was participated in by the heads of the Japanese Chambers of Commerce in ASEAN and hosted by the Japanese Chamber of Trade & Industry, Malaysia.
During the Dialogue, the Japanese private sector communicated their strong interest in several initiatives of ASEAN. They were especially keen on several on-going ASEAN trade facilitation measures on customs and rules of origin. In particular, they welcomed the projects on the ASEAN Single Window and Self-Certification, which when completed will provide exporters and businesses more timely clearance of goods and reduce their costs of doing business.
The FJCCIA representatives were also interested in issues pertaining to standards and requested for information to be made more easily accessible, especially on products that are subject to mandatory certification, the issuance process of certificates of conformance and the test laboratories availability. The mobility of labour, financial sector liberalisation and taxation issues also represented issues of importance to businesses.
The FJCCIA presented their views on the post-2015 scenario for ASEAN, particular in respect of seeking to secure skilled industrial human resources in ASEAN, the development of rules and regulations which enable cross-border transportation and initiatives that encourage industry-wide conformity of standards and specifications. In particular, they expressed willingness to cooperate in developing vocational training programmes in ASEAN and to engage in a ten-year plan with ASEAN for human resource development.
SG Minh briefed the Japanese sector on recent ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) developments. He stated that ASEAN has stepped up efforts to implement the remaining AEC initiatives. According to him, ASEAN has made further progress towards the implementation of the full-fledged ASEAN Single Window Pilot Project and has intensified efforts to address important issues relating to non-tariff barriers in trade and investment. He added that ASEAN Member States have also made progress in building up their laws and regulations database under their respective national trade repositories, which will contain important information important to businesses.
Further, SG Minh told the Japanese business representatives that improvements are being made on the liberalisation of the services sector, while progress is seen also in the implementation of the Mutual Recognition Arrangements towards better mobility of professionals. Currently, ASEAN Registries are in place under the MRAs on Architect and Engineers and with about 1,500 professionals already registered under these two registries.
SG Minh noted the important contribution of the private sector in bringing about prosperity and benefits to the people of ASEAN including jobs and employment. He noted that the business sector has helped to spur ASEAN's economic growth with per capita GDP income doubling from USD2,000 in 2006, just before the adoption of the AEC Blueprint, to USD4,130 in 2014. Total trade has grown from USD1.4 trillion to USD2.6 trillion in the same period, while visitor arrivals has doubled to 105 million visitors last year.
In this respect, SG Minh called upon the Japanese business sector to be more participative in ASEAN's post-2015 activities and welcomed the offer of the Japanese companies to be more engaged in cooperation for developing vocational training programmes. He further stated that "the private sector will also be called upon to collaborate more in the development of SMEs especially in relation to their integration into the regional value chains and that there is much room for more direct business involvement in the initiatives under the SME Plan Post-2015." He also urged the FJCCIA members to lend their expertise and to enhance SME development through the mentoring and capacity building programmes.
The Japanese private sector has a strong and important presence in ASEAN. Japanese FDI in the last five years have reached up to USD 80 billion. The number of Japanese companies in ASEAN who are members of FJCCIA has increased by almost 20% since 2012 to 6,500, reflecting the high levels of FDI and their huge confidence in ASEAN's economies.