The Jakarta Post
The ASEAN Secretariat reintroduced on Tuesday its ASEAN Solutions for Investments, Services and Trade (ASSIST) program, which manifests as a website where companies can submit questions and complaints related to intra-regional trade.
Paolo Vergano, trade facilitation expert at the ASEAN Secretariat, told reporters and businesspeople in Jakarta that the reintroduction was necessary as the website had only received six cases since its launch four years ago.
“ASSIST is free. It’s much cheaper than hiring a lawyer in the disputed country and accessing its government,” he said.
The program, which was initiated by ASEAN and funded by the European Union, is designed to be a one-stop hub for all companies registered within an ASEAN member state.
All registered Indonesian companies can use the ASSIST website to resolve uncertainty or seek solutions related to trade with other Southeast Asian countries.
Such companies can expect to wait a maximum of three months between submitting a question and receiving a response, as the questions are relayed directly to governments.
Vergano stressed that unlike the World Trade Organization dispute settlement mechanism, “ASSIST is not about deciding who is right and who is wrong but it is for issues more consultative in nature.”
In that sense, ASSIST neither has the authority to change member states’ trade regulations nor improve their trade management.
Nevertheless, Iskandar Panjaitan, who represented the Trade Ministry at Tuesday’s event, welcomed ASSIST, saying that it would be beneficial to support the continued growth of intra-regional trade, particularly for the trade of services.
“[Indonesia’s] research and development (R&D) sector, for example, is not that productive yet so it would be better to import R&D services to support our industries. Especially as we enter Industry 4.0,” he told reporters. (bbn)