Although only 30 per cent of trade takes place within ASEAN countries, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam have a strong market for each other’s agricultural produce.
In creating a friendly trade environment among the three countries and ASEAN, a new project, Facilitating Trade for Agricultural Goods in ASEAN or FTAG, was officially launched on 11 October 2017 to encourage the free flow of agricultural goods, particularly fruits and vegetables, between the neighbours.
ASEAN defines trade facilitation as “creating a consistent, transparent, and predictable environment for international trade transactions that increases trading opportunities and helps businesses, including small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), to save time and reduce costs”.
“We are very concerned about food safety and phytosanitary measures,” said Mr. Wichar Thitiprasert, Adviser, National Bureau of Agricultural Commodity and Food Standards (ACFS), Thailand. “We have movement of goods between Thailand and Vietnam, and we also trade several fruits and vegetables with Cambodia. Yet there are still some gaps between the three countries with regard to the regulations and procedures and border trade.”
These gaps include a lack of common understanding among border officials about the regulations concerning food safety and phytosanitary measures and procedures between countries, which can create delays in trade and has a detrimental effect on the quality of agricultural goods.
“We urgently need to train the officers to be good inspectors and enable them to efficiently issue the phytosanitary certificate,” Mr. Wichar added.
H.E. Hean Vanhan, Director General of the General Directorate of Agriculture (GDA), Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), Cambodia, also stressed the importance of capacity strengthening of the officers carrying out these duties.
“Phytosanitary certification starts with the capability of the staff to inspect, select samples and check for pests and diseases, identify the results, and then issue the phytosanitary certificate,” he explained.
According to the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), phytosanitary certification attests that exported goods meet the phytosanitary import requirements in order to protect plant health and prevent the spread of plant pests and diseases.
Senior government representatives of Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam met at the launch of the project in Bangkok, Thailand where the first Steering Committee Meeting was also conducted. The aim of the two-day meeting was to create a common understanding of the project, define roles and responsibilities of the parties concerned and project implementation procedures, and identify potential fruits and vegetables that will be the focus of the project.
The aim of the new project is to develop recommendations for the alignment of a regulatory framework on food safety and phytosanitary measures and procedures in selected countries and within ASEAN. It is viewed as an important component in increasing intra-ASEAN trade, which is one of the goals of the ASEAN Member States in the ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint.
An assessment of the proposed potential crops and regulatory framework and procedures to identify the existing challenges, barriers, gaps and the recommendations required among the three countries will be conducted and the results presented at the next Steering Committee in April 2018.
“Efficient facilitation of trade in goods, especially in agricultural products, will create such benefits as improved food security, income from import and export and increase capital to improve productivity,” Ms. Tran Thuy Dung, government official, Viet Nam Sanitary and Phytosanitary Notification Authorities and Enquiry Point said.
Facilitating Trade for Agricultural Goods in ASEAN or FTAG is part of the Global Project on Trade Policy and Trade Promotion Fund commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The project is implemented by GIZ in collaboration with ASEAN Member States under the umbrella of the existing ASEAN-German project ‘Sustainable Agrifood Systems (ASEAN SAS)’. Outcomes and recommendations drawn from the project will be channelled into ASEAN. The project duration is two years (June 2017 – June 2019).