South Korea, Japan, Australia and New Zealand agreed to tear down non-tariff barriers at the East Asia Summit (EAS) level in response to worldwide protectionism.
The Ministry of Industry, Trade and Resources of South Korea suggested to economic ministers of 18 EAS countries including China, Japan, the United States, Russia, Australia and New Zealand that they make endeavors to remove non-tariff barriers to deal with protectionism, saying, “It is concerned that protectionism may spread throughout the world,” in a meeting of East Asian economic ministers held in Vientiane, Laos from August 4 to 5
With regard to the proposal of Minister of Joo Hyung-hwan, the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Resources of South Korea, representatives of Australia, New Zealand, Japan and other nations expressed their strong agreement and asked the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) to start research on the matter, a representative of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Resources explained. The ERIA is a think-tank of the EAS which researches on economic integration, the removal of gaps in development, sustainable development, human resource development and recommend policies.
But it was not known how the US and China responded to the proposal. The US levied a sudden and unreasonably high 61% tariff on Korean hot-rolled steel sheets while China imposed an anti-dumping tariff of 37.3% on all of Korean-made directional electric steel plates.
Minister Joo proposed in the 13th Korea-ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Meeting that they beef up cooperation to break down non-tariff barriers, saying, “Tariffs are falling thanks to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and free trade agreement (FTAs) but non-tariff barriers are increasing.”
Participating countries saw eye to eye on setting up subcommittees by business types such as food and cosmetics and discussing ways to do away with non-tariff barriers.
The Ministry of Industry, Trade and Resources said that the average tariff of the ASEAN dropped 4% to 2015 from 8% in 2000 but non-tariff barriers more than quadrupled to 6000 from 1500 during the same span.
Minister Joo also suggested expanding a trilateral digital single market initiative proposed by South Korea in a summit meeting among Korea, China and Japan in November last year into a bigger one to include the ASEAN.
The gist of the project is “Korea, China and Japan will put in efforts to get rid of regulations and technological barriers that impede international e-commerce and realize a unified digital market with the region for economic integration and the creation of new added value.”
Minister Joo also decided to steadily cooperate on projects initiated by the Korea-China Summit Meeting such as Korea-China industrial cooperation complexes, joint overseas market development and raising funds for investment and cooperation via a bilateral meeting with China.