President Joko Widodo at ASEAN Summit (Photo credit ; Cabinet Secretary Office)

JAKARTA (TheInsiderStories) – After three years of talks, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Japan are close to signing an ASEAN-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership (AJCEP), after accepting the proposal of the Indonesian government on investment issues, Trade Minister Enggartiasto Lukita said.

“After struggling for three years, we managed to incorporate Indonesia’s related interests (in the AJCEP) on investment protection – Investor States Dispute Settlement (ISDS) under the amended AJCEP Protocol,” the Minister said in a press statement on Tuesday (14/11).

The Protocol will accommodate investment, service and Movement agreements of Natural Persons  into the AJCEP Master Agreement.

Therefore, if all parties, including Indonesia, sign this Protocol in March 2018, the scope of work of the same AJCEP will be the same as other ASEAN + 1 FTA Agreements, which encompass Goods Trade, Services and Investment, added Minister Enggartiasto.

The amended AJCEP was an attempt by Indonesia to adjust international agreements with Indonesia’s Investment Laws.

He said that with the terms as agreed, handling of disputes, if and when they arise, between Japanese investors and the government of Indonesia, can be solved through mechanisms which in principle provide equal rights for both the government and foreign investors.

In addition to successfully campaigning for the issue of ISDS, Indonesia and Japan have also been resolved the issue of transposition of import tariffs to their mutual satisfaction.

Indonesia expects to implement the AJCEP Master Agreement from early 2018 onward. It is expected to boost trade and investment cooperation between ASEAN and Japan to the interest of both sides. This is also in line with the commitment of ASEAN countries and Japan, which was stated in 2013, during the 40th anniversary of the formal diplomatic relations between Japan and ASEAN.

In the past 50 years, ASEAN has undergone rapid development, and today, Japan and ASEAN are indispensable partners. The AJCEP is expected to strengthen the relationship between Japan and ASEAN.

Merchandise trade between ASEAN and Japan reached $201.9 billion in 2016, placing Japan as the region’s 4th-largest trading partner.

In related developments, ASEAN and Hong Kong, China (HKC) on Monday signed free trade and investment agreements. This is the sixth economic deal entered into by the 10 member countries aimed at further strengthening trade and economic relations between the two parties.

The AHKFTA covers trade in goods, rules of origin, non-tariff measures, customs procedures and trade facilitation, trade remedies, technical barriers to trade, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, trade in services, intellectual property rights, and economic and technical cooperation.

Written by Roffie Kurniawan, email: roffien@theinsiderstories.com

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