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ASEAN Needs a Comprehensive Strategic Export Control Policy

Export controls remain a ticklish issue which is handled at the national level in ASEAN. Singapore and Malaysia have enacted comprehensive strategic export control laws, and Thailand has indicated that it would like do so as well one day

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Export controls at first blush would appear to have not much relevance to the AEC, being a security issue rather than an economic issue. After all, export controls are primarily aimed at preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction WMDs, which are consistent with ASEAN’s Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone  and Declaration for a Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality Zopfan.

Both agreements evidence ASEAN members’ commitment to prevent the spread of WMDs into the region.  Yet the inconsistent and incomplete coverage of export controls in ASEAN actually has an adverse economic impact on the region.

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ASEAN Needs a Comprehensive Strategic Export Control Policy

Many high-tech and value-added industries operate in the West in compliance with the stronger export controls there.  The absence of comprehensive export controls discourages certain investments into ASEAN by these industries.

Nevertheless, export controls remain a ticklish issue which is handled at the national level in ASEAN.  Singapore and Malaysia have enacted comprehensive strategic export control laws, and Thailand has indicated that it would like do so as well one day.

The other ASEAN members have varying stances on the issue.Perhaps this reflects a sentiment that export controls are largely driven by the West, particularly the United States.  Indeed the U.S. has the most comprehensive and actively enforced export control laws, with severe penalties for non-compliance.  Some critics say the U.S. export control laws are too active and comprehensive, discouraging the export of items which do not have proliferation risks.   That is one reason the U.S. is actively discussing the reform of its export control laws.

via AEC Blog.

I am a U.S. international trade lawyer at the Singapore office of Appleton Luff and adjunct associate professor of law at National University of Singapore. There, I teach the first course developed on the law and policy of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). I have also advised the ASEAN Secretariat in an EU-funded assistance project on the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA), and represented companies in dealing with the ASEAN Industrial Cooperation (AICO) scheme, Common External Preferential Tariff (CEPT) program and other ASEAN economic integration

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