MANILA -- The ASEAN Business Advisory Council (BAC), the voice of businesses in the 10 ASEAN member states, have urged ASEAN leaders to fast-track enforcement of  initiatives to further ease doing business in the region.

ASEAN BAC Chairman Jose Maria Concepcion said the ease of doing business is considered as one of the most important deliverables for the Council.

“The non-tariff barriers are really the biggest challenges. Yes, you are lowering tariffs but the non-tariff barriers are still there,” said Concepcion.

He noted that the Council will push to fast-track the deliverables on ease of doing business in its report to the Leaders to be submitted prior to the 31st ASEAN Summit happening in Manila next week.

“The ease of doing business, they’ve been there for a long time, and they are still there until now. It really never changed. They have to really accelerate the speed,” he stressed.

During ASEAN BAC’s Prosperity for All Summit last April, Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak noted that non-tariff barriers (NTBs) and non-tariff measures (NTMs) ballooned from 1,634 to 5,975 products between 2000 and 2015.

The ASEAN leader added that the region should cut 50 percent of NTBs and NTMs to reach the USD 9.2-trillion economy by 2030, which is forecasted to be the fourth largest economy in the world by 2030.

In the 49th ASEAN Economic Ministers’ (AEM) Meeting last September, Philippine Trade Secretary and AEM Chairman Ramon Lopez urged other ASEAN members to link their National Single Window (NSW) to the ASEAN Single Window (ASW).

The NSW is one of the commitments of the Philippine government to further improve the process of doing business in the country.

Using the TradeNet platform to automate import and export applications, the NSW will be launched by the government on Dec. 30, 2017, which will have 66 import regulators and 10 economic zones to be linked to system.

The Philippines’ NSW will also be linked to the ASW as President Rodrigo Dutere signed last June 28 the ratification of the Protocol on the Legal Framework (PLF) to roll out the ASW.

Ease of doing business varies in ASEAN member states, with Singapore ranking second in the Doing Business 2018 report of the World Bank and Myanmar at 171st place in the same report.

Other ASEAN rankings for the latest Doing Business report were Malaysia at 24th, Thailand at 26th; Brunei Darussalam at 56th; Vietnam at 68th; Indonesia at 72nd; the Philippines at 113th; Cambodia at 135th; Lao PDR at 141st; and Myanmar at 171st. (PNA)