The ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) is a trade bloc agreement by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations supporting local manufacturing in all ASEAN countries.
The AFTA agreement was signed on 28 January 1992 in Singapore. When the AFTA agreement was originally signed, ASEAN had six members, namely, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Vietnam joined in 1995, Laos and Myanmar in 1997 and Cambodia in 1999. AFTA now comprises the ten countries of ASEAN. All the four latecomers were required to sign the AFTA agreement to join ASEAN, but were given longer time frames in which to meet AFTA’s tariff reduction obligations.
Unlike the EU, AFTA does not apply a common external tariff on imported goods. Each ASEAN member may impose tariffs on goods entering from outside ASEAN based on its national schedules. However, for goods originating within ASEAN, ASEAN members are to apply a tariff rate of 0-5 %(the more recent members of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, also known as CMLV countries, were given additional time to implement the reduced tariff rates). This is known as the Common Effective Preferential Tariff (CEPT) scheme.
The primary goals of AFTA seek to:
Increase ASEAN’s competitive edge as a production base in the world market through the elimination, within ASEAN, of tariffs and non-tariff barriers; and Attract more foreign direct investment to ASEAN.
The primary mechanism for achieving such goals is the Common Effective Preferential Tariff scheme, which established a phased schedule in 1992 with the goal to increase the region’s competitive advantage as a production base geared for the world market.