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Working Towards Services Integration Through the Negative List

13 August 2021

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Vientiane, 13 August 2021: The ASEAN Trade in Services Agreement (ATISA) signed in October 2020 establishes a framework to promote economic integration and liberalisation in the services sector amongst ASEAN Member States (AMS).  ATISA replaces the ASEAN Framework Agreement on Services (AFAS). One of the key forward-looking elements of ATISA is a commitment by AMS to apply a ‘negative list’. The negative list approach requires the listing of services sectors exempt from liberalisation. This contrasts with the positive list approach at AFAS, which requires an explicit list of the sectors to be liberalised.

To provide knowledge and practical expertise on working with the negative list, a workshop was co-hosted by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce (MOIC) of Lao PDR and ERIA under the Coordinating Committee on Services (CCS) - Japan Cooperation Program, facilitated by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) of Japan. The workshop for Lao PDR was co-supported by the Australian Government.

Around 25 officials participated in this workshop, with participants from the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Ministry of Public Works and Transport, Ministry of Technology and Communication and Ministry of Planning and Investment in Lao PDR – in-line with the sectors under focus at this workshop: transport and communications.

In his opening remarks, Mr Santisouk Phounesavath, Deputy Director-General, Department of Foreign Trade Policy, MOIC, highlighted the importance of this workshop to deepen the officials’ understanding of the negative list approach to enter into negotiations on measures affecting trade in specific service sectors. He also noted its implications to attract foreign direct investment and to enhance national competitiveness. Mr Kohei Matsumoto, Assistant Director, Asia and Pacific Division, Ministry of Economic Trade and Industry of Japan, in his opening comments, emphasized the role of ATISA in trade facilitation and to leverage economic integration within ASEAN through the negative list. Dr Intan Murnira Ramli, Policy Fellow of ERIA expressed her confidence that workshop will benefit Lao PDR, as different ministries formulate domestic regulations to meet national interests.

This hybrid workshop was facilitated by Mr Shimpei Ishido, Counsel at Nishimura and Asahi Tokyo, and Mr Yosuke Iwasaki, Associate at Sidley Austin Tokyo. It covered issues including an introduction to the negative list approach, discussions about transitioning from the positive list to a negative list, and Non-Conformist Measure Provisions in ATISA for the transport and telecommunications sector. The discussions revolved around the standard format of the negative list approach, liberalisation, and the medium plan strategy in the telecommunication and transportation services sector.

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