- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 30, 2003

SINGAPORE, Jan. 31 (UPI) — The Association of Southeast Asian Nations said Friday its members have decided to accelerate the liberalization of their investment regimes by broadening the scope of economic activities where other members get national treatment.

After a meeting in Jakarta earlier this week, the ASEAN Coordinating Committee on Investment has agreed to phase out the so-called "temporary exclusion list" of products in the manufacturing sectors in Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

This means that, with effect from Jan. 1, any ASEAN investor can invest in any ASEAN country and enjoy national investor treatment in manufacturing sectors that were previously excluded.

ASEAN investors will now be allowed to invest, for example, in the manufacture of pesticides in Indonesia, the manufacture of pulp of all kinds in Myanmar and the production of flour from rice and field crops in Thailand.

This week's decision accelerated the timetable for investment liberalization, which was originally set four years ago. Since the launch of the ASEAN Investment Area in 1998, Southeast Asian states have started opening up all industries for investment and grant national treatment to ASEAN investors, but with some exceptions. These lists were supposed to be phased out by 2010 for ASEAN investors and by 2020 for all other investors.

The establishment of the ASEAN Investment Area is expected to encourage investors to think increasingly in regional terms and adopt a regional investment strategy and network of operations. The scheme aims to promote a more efficient division of labor and industrial activities across the region, creating opportunities for greater industrial productivity and cost competitiveness.

The newer members of ASEAN (Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam) have until Jan. 1, 2010 to phase out their temporary exclusion list for the manufacturing sector.

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