Non-Tariff Measures -An Update
Whilst tariffs have declined following disciplines instituted by the World Trade Organization, the use of non-tariff measures is on the rise worldwide. This trend is also reflected in the updated Non-Tariff Measure (NTM) database of the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), where the number of NTMs in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has increased over time. Given the complexity of NTMs, their increasing use should be interpreted with caveats. The increase in NTMs reflects the dynamics of regulatory reform in ASEAN Member States. In certain circumstances, however, NTMs have also served as disguised barriers to international trade and become a convenient tool to provide undue protection to certain products or industries. More importantly, regardless of their objectives, NTMs can contribute greatly to increasing trade costs, reducing an economy’s competitiveness. Addressing NTMs, especially in the context of declining tariffs, should, therefore, be a priority in national competitiveness agendas. NTMs are neutral and, more often than not, eliminating them is not an option. A pragmatic approach should consider the costs and effectiveness of NTMs from the perspective of governments and producers, with evidence-based support from academia.
This report documents the trend and pattern of NTMs utilisation in ASEAN based on the updated ERIA–UNCTAD NTMs in ASEAN database, and discusses ongoing regional and national efforts in addressing NTMs. We recommend four areas of focus in addressing NTMs: (1) Enhancing the capacity of issuing and enforcing agencies; (2) Establishing an inter-agency committee to oversee and manage the use of NTMs; (3) Strengthening engagement and consultation with the private sector and research institutions; and (4) Applying regulatory practice core principles.