Private sector participation in the AEC’s integration process will help ensure that the development of regulatory frameworks is at par with international practices, said EAS Strategic Advice managing director Pushpanathan Sundram.
Speaking at the launch of new food industry association, the ASEAN Food and Beverage Alliance (AFBA), Mr Sundram said that the organisation has the potential to play a key role in harmonisation of food policies and standards in ASEAN that enhance the trade of safe, high quality food.
Mr Sundram is the former deputy secretary general of ASEAN for the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) and the principal advisor to the AFBA.
“The two key visionary documents spurring the building of the ASEAN Economic Community are the AEC Blueprint and the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity, and one key element in both of these documents is the role of the private sector,” he said. “The private sector is not just seen as a contributor or feedback mechanism for the Economic Community, it is a partner and stakeholder of it. That is, a partner in shaping the present and future direction of the Community and providing the collective leadership in the implementation of the Community goals, working together with the other stakeholders such as the ASEAN governments and the ASEAN Secretariat. A good regulatory framework and regulatory practices will certainly have an impact on the trade and investment regime in ASEAN and serve as a catalyst for achieving a rules-based AEC that will enhance trade and investment.”
The AFBA launch was attended by senior ASEAN officials and leading experts from the region’s food and beverage industry. It included presentations by Sulaimah Mahmood, SEOM leader of Singapore, ASEAN Director, Ministry of Trade and Industry; Dr Roy Sparringa, Chairman of the ASEAN Prepared Foodstuff Product Working Group; Ms Tan Poh Hong, CEO of the Agri-Food Veterinary Authority of Singapore and Mr Sundram.
At the event Mr Sundram highlighted the organisation’s goals, which include a focus on effective and meaningful stakeholder engagement, providing technical support to the relevant ASEAN bodies, gathering collective knowledge of the region’s food industry to make it available to the relevant ASEAN committees, and providing feedback and input on ASEAN policies and regulations.
“It is promising to see that the food and beverage industry in ASEAN is committed to and supportive of the ASEAN Economic Community,” Mr Sundram further said. “I hope that it will serve as a useful reference for the ASEAN stakeholders in helping to shape the existing regulatory framework and standards so that the region can meet international benchmarks of good regulatory practice, which include good governance, rigorous impact assessment, scientific basis and proportionality, open consultation and minimal restrictiveness.”
AFBA is made up of industry associations from the 10 ASEAN member states, including the small and medium enterprises.