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AANZFTA Supports Studies And Dialogue On Services Liberalization

13 March 2016

Initial findings from six case studies highlighting the benefits of services liberalization from select countries in the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA) region were presented at a conference held in Bangkok, Thailand from 20 to 21 July 2016.

The event, supported by the AANZFTA Economic Cooperation Support Program (AECSP), gathered a total of 35 participants, which included representatives from: the AANZFTA Committee on Trade in Services comprised of officials from the 8 ASEAN Member States, Australia, and New Zealand; ASEAN Secretariat; academic and research institutes; and private sector representatives.

The conference allowed participants to comment on the preliminary findings of the case studies, which covered topics on: logistic services in Australia; tourism and travel-related services in Thailand; financial services in Indonesia; business services in Viet Nam; telecommunication services in the Philippines; and air transport for the region.

The case studies provided participants with practical examples on how AANZFTA countries can benefit from services liberalization, specifically from increased efficiency and quality of services, lower production costs, increase in national output, higher employment, and greater international competitiveness.

Through the presentations and ensuing discussions, conference participants also learned about how countries had managed the process towards liberalizing their respective services sector. This is important as liberalization also entails short- term costs such as unemployment from unsuccessful local businesses that could not compete in a more liberal business environment.

The studies stressed the crucial role of independent and effective government institutions in ensuring a level playing field during the liberalization process, including in enacting complementary efforts such as deregulation, privatization, and adoption of national competition policies. Such actions ensure that the benefits of services liberalization are more equitably shared and not concentrated among the few.

The case studies will be finalized by August 2016 based on feedback from the conference. A copy of the final report will be available electronically in the websites of AANZFTA and the ASEAN Secretariat.

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