The liberalization of trade barriers, proliferation of regional free-trade agreements (FTAs) and the integration of the Mekong Countries into the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) presents a range of trade policy challenges. As signatories to a range of FTA agreements – including the ASEAN FTA – CLMV countries (Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Vietnam) have tremendous potential to prosper, but are struggling to reform trade policies and laws to meet agreed-upon obligations and duties.
Increased understandings of FTA agreements and the AEC 2015 framework will go a long way to helping national policy makers to both meet these obligations and negotiate the best possible terms to maximise trade opportunities for local businesses.
MI's recent one-week trade negotiation and policy development training course aimed to address these critical issues, targeting the development of the region's public sector policy makers and trade personnel. In total, 21 public sector officers from various CLMV ministries (Cambodia (6), Lao PDR (4), Myanmar (4), Vietnam (6)) and the Yunnan Province of P.R. China (1)), participated in the program, which was sponsored by the New Zealand Aid Programme (NZAP) under the three year, 'Capacity Building for Integrating CLMV Economies into AEC 2015' project.
Course modules focused on increasing participants' understandings of the current status of CLMV trade policies, current and emerging trade policy development issues, and the development of practical trade negotiation and decision-making skills
Trade policy and negotiation experts including Mr. Stephen Olson, Consultant at the Economic Strategy Institue (Washington D.C) and Dr. Watcharas Leelawath, Deputy Executive Officer at the International Institute for Trade and Development (ITD), along with the MI Trade and Investment Facilitation (TIF) team, provided participants with in-depth analysis on trade policy and growth principles and the implications of policy reform and negotiations at the multilateral, regional and bilateral levels.
Realistic trade negotiation dispute simulation exercises allowed participants to hone their new skills and engage with their peers in an interactive setting. As part of the program, participants developed group action-plans designed to localize training packages in home countries which will transfer their new knowledge and skills among colleagues upon their return home.
The localization and further dissemination of these deeper understandings will help create a more able and aware policy making and negotiating public sector and lead to more prosperous and inclusive growth under the AEC.