October 03 2008
In recent weeks the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and member state Singapore have both announced progress in free trade agreement negotiations.
At a meeting of ASEAN's economics ministers in Singapore on August 25 and 26 2008, ASEAN leaders announced the completion of negotiations on the following agreements:
Once finalized, the agreements will be presented to the summit in mid-December for signing by ASEAN leaders. The texts will then be released.
Mutual recognition arrangements covering accountancy services and dental and medical practitioners were signed at the Singapore meeting. The arrangements allow professionals licensed in one ASEAN member state to practise in other member states. The arrangements will be extended to tourism professionals by early 2009.
On September 4 2008 Singapore and China announced the completion of negotiations on a bilateral free trade agreement. This will go beyond the existing ASEAN-China agreement, which covers only trade in goods and services, to include investment, travel, customs procedures and other related issues. National leaders will sign the new agreement in October 2008.
The United States has announced that it will join the 'Pacific Four' free trade agreement talks between Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore. The four Pacific Rim nations are negotiating as a bloc with other trading partners.
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Edmund W Sim