ASEAN Plans to Reduce Non-Tariff Barriers for Cosmetics and Pharmaceuticals

The ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Consultative Committee for Standards and Quality (ACCSQ) was formed in 1992 by the ASEAN Economic Ministers. The purpose of the committee is to eliminate technical barriers to trade and facilitate the objectives of the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA). In July 2003, the ACCSQ announced their intentions to sign a Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) to harmonize regulations for cosmetics and pharmaceuticals in ASEAN countries. The agreement plans to establish a common regulatory scheme for the member countries in order to eliminate non-tariff barriers.

The agreement for cosmetics is scheduled to be signed before the end of 2003. The accord for pharmaceuticals will be implemented through a two-year pilot program that will gradually reduce trade barriers in the pharmaceuticals sector. Cedric Foo, Chairman of SPRING Singapore (Standards, Productivity and Innovation Board) stated, “The aim is to integrate the ASEAN people into a single production base and create a regional market of some 500 million people.”

Currently, each ASEAN country has its own product certification system and does not recognize certifications granted in other countries. Teo Nam Kuan, General Manager of SPRING explained, “This means that if there are nine countries involved, you will have to apply for nine separate certifications for your product.” However, the MRA for cosmetics and pharmaceuticals will allow product certification in one member country to be recognized by all other member countries.