The draft law for the approval of the ASEAN Trade in Services Agreement (ATISA) received resounding support from the National Assembly (NA) on May 30.
With 98 out of 100 votes in favour, the government expects this agreement to bolster economic and trade ties, providing enhanced opportunities for economic development within the ASEAN Economic Community.
Minister of Commerce Pan Sorasak was on hand to defend the bill, which was first approved by the NA’s ninth commission on May 23. He highlighted its potential to boost trade and investment in services. By creating a broader market and economy, the law aims to reduce trade restrictions and establish a predictable trade environment.
It also seeks to strengthen economic relations among member countries by promoting regulatory cooperation, facilitating better opportunities, fostering human resource development, and encouraging the participation of micro, small and medium-sized (SME) enterprises in trade and services activities.
Sorasak noted that two articles of the ATISA will play a vital role in bridging the development gap between ASEAN member countries, ensuring equality, balance and sustainable socio-economic development.
According to Nin Saphon – chairwoman of the National Assembly’s Commission for Public Works, Transport, Telecommunication, Post, Industry, Mining, Energy, Trade, Land Management, Urban Planning, and Construction – the ATISA has already been established, with negotiations concluded during the 50th ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Meeting in Singapore.
She further revealed that the agreement was signed by seven ASEAN member states on April 23, 2019, during the 25th ASEAN Economic Ministers’ closed-door meeting in Phuket, Thailand.
“To date, eight ASEAN member countries have successfully completed their internal procedures, including Brunei, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam,” she disclosed.
Lim Heng, vice-president of the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC), expressed the necessity of the ATISA for Cambodia as a member of the ASEAN Economic Community. He emphasised that the agreement would also safeguard members within the ASEAN region, preventing unilateral border closures that could disrupt trade.
“With this ATISA, I believe no ASEAN country would dare to close its borders unilaterally,” he said.
Ky Sereyvath, an economics researcher at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, noted the significance of this agreement, as it expands Cambodia’s previous focus on goods to encompass trade and service deals, including those related to tourism, education, and cross-border or remote labour. Sereyvath stressed the importance of strengthening Cambodia’s service sector to maximise the benefits of this agreement.
Additionally, he anticipated that once the agreement comes into effect, purchasing services from abroad would become more affordable, cost-effective and efficient.
The ATISA comprises six sections, 38 articles and three annexes.