The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is a regional intergovernmental organization that promotes economic, political, and cultural cooperation among its ten member countries. One of the key measures to achieve this cooperation is the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (AFTA), a free trade pact that eliminates tariffs and other barriers among the member states.
The AFTA was established in 1993 and implemented in 1994, with the goal of creating a single market and production base among the ASEAN member countries. It has undergone several revisions and expansions, with the latest being the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Blueprint 2025 which aims to deepen and integrate economic cooperation within the region.
Under the AFTA, member states have agreed to reduce and eliminate tariffs on goods traded within the region. As of 2021, the following countries are part of the AFTA:
1. Brunei Darussalam
While the AFTA has greatly facilitated trade among ASEAN member countries, there are still certain challenges that need to be addressed. Non-tariff barriers such as complex customs procedures, differing technical standards, and restrictions on services and investment are some of the issues that hinder the full realization of the AFTA`s goals.
Moreover, the AFTA has also faced criticism for being a « shallow » integration that mainly focuses on tariff reductions rather than deeper forms of economic cooperation such as free movement of goods, services, and labor. Nonetheless, the AFTA remains an important mechanism for promoting economic integration and cooperation in the ASEAN region.
In conclusion, the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement is a key instrument for promoting economic cooperation and integration among the member states. While there are still challenges to be addressed, the AFTA has greatly facilitated trade among ASEAN countries and paved the way for further economic cooperation in the region.