DATE: 2 April 2019, Tuesday

TIME: 9:00 am – 12:15 pm

VENUE: Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

TOPIC: ASEAN Roundtable Series co-hosted by RSIS: Future of ASEAN Trade: Tackling Non-Tariff Barriers in the new trade order


The challenges to remove Non-Tariff-Barriers (NTBs) in ASEAN are both technical and political. Despite having committed to full removal of NTBs by 2015, ASEAN had totally missed the target and is still struggling to tackle the various trade barriers which are on the rise. Will the rise of protectionism further put pressure against the political will to commit to the liberalisation agenda? What does it take to make trade truly free in ASEAN? Why did intra-ASEAN trade stagnate despite the removal of tariffs?

ASEAN as a region is highly intertwined with the global supply chains. The region’s trade-to-GDP ratio in 2016 amounted to 87% relative to the global average of 56%. Historically, the trade-to-GDP ratio rose from 43% in 1967 and peaked at 131% in 2005. The region produced 7% of total global exports in 2017, with extra-ASEAN trade dominating ASEAN’s total exports, measuring 77.1% of total exports in 2017. With the economies of many ASEAN Member States being dependent on the exports of manufactured goods and commodities, recent uncertainties in global markets, in particular, the ongoing trade tensions between China and the US, as well as rising protectionism, have left ASEAN economies vulnerable.

The removal of tariffs among ASEAN countries has been regarded as a significant achievement with the ASEAN-6 (Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand) countries having 99.20% of tariff lines in the Inclusion List at 0-5% import duty1. The CLMV (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam) countries have committed to tariff reduction efforts in compliance with the Common Effective Preferential Tariff (CEPT) standards by 20182. As of 2016, their tariff removal stood at 90.9%3 of tariff lines. The significant removal of tariffs, however, did not translate into a substantial increase in intra-ASEAN trade in goods. In 2017, the share of intra-ASEAN trade in goods to total ASEAN trade was 23% and was consistently on the downward trend from 24.4% in 2013. Intra-ASEAN trade in goods has stagnated since 20134.  

It has been suggested that the rising number of Non-Tariff Measures (NTMs) is a likely impediment to ASEAN’s trade, intra-regionally or with ASEAN’s dialogue partners. Non-tariff measures in ASEAN have increased from 1,634 to 5,975 during 2000-20155. While there must be a distinction between NTMs, which are designed to protect consumers, the trade-distorting Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) should be phased out as committed by ASEAN members in the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Blueprint 2015 and 2025.

1 Malaysian Ministry of International Trade and Industry, Malaysia’s Free Trade Agreements.
2 CARI, AEC Blueprint 2025 Analysis: Liberalisation of the Trade in Goods.
3 Ibid
4 ASEAN Statistical Yearbook 2018.
5 Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, Non-Tariff Measures in ASEAN, April 2016.



H.E. Ong Keng Yong,
Executive Deputy Chairman, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies Director, Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, Nanyang Technological University

Ambassador Ong Keng Yong is Executive Deputy Chairman of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore since November 2014. Concurrently, he is Ambassador-at-Large in the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Singapore’s non-resident High Commissioner to Pakistan and non-resident Ambassador to Iran. He was High Commissioner of Singapore to Malaysia from July 2011 to October 2014. Mr Ong was Secretary-General of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), based in Jakarta, Indonesia from January 2003 to January 2008.

Alpana Roy,
Director, ASEAN (Trade Division), Ministry of Trade and Industry, Singapore

Ms Alpana Roy oversees the ASEAN Division in the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) and is Singapore’s Senior Economic Official to ASEAN.

Prior to her appointment as Director (ASEAN), Alpana was Deputy Director for ASEAN, Southeast Asia, and Counsellor (Economic) at the Embassy of Singapore in Washington D C. She has been responsible for advancing Singapore’s economic relations with the Americas, Southeast Asia, ASEAN and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). Alpana has also been involved in the negotiation, implementation and review of Singapore’s Free Trade Agreement (FTAs) with the United States, Panama, Peru, Costa Rica and the TransPacific Strategic Economic Partnership (P4). In ASEAN, she oversees internal integration issues, ASEAN’s ties with external partners and was the Chief Negotiator for ASEAN’s FTAs with Hong Kong and Japan, as well as the upgrade of the ASEAN-China FTA. Alpana is also the Deputy Chief Negotiator for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership

Alpana’s past work experience includes heading the Emerging Markets team in Singapore’s national trade promotion agency (International Enterprise Singapore, now known as Enterprise Singapore). She also served as a Foreign Service official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Alpana was awarded the Public Administration Medal (Bronze) National Day Award in 2018.

Alpana obtained her degree in Political Science (Honours) from the National University of Singapore in 1995 and her Masters in International Public Policy from the Johns Hopkins University Paul H Nitze School of Advanced International Studies in 2013. She is married with one child.

Tan Sri Datuk Rebecca Fatima Sta Maria,
Executive Director, APEC Secretariat

Tan Sri Datuk Rebecca Fatima Sta Maria is the executive director of the APEC Secretariat based in Singapore, which serves as advisory body, implementation arm and custodian of institutional memory for the 21 member economies that make up the APEC forum.

Dr Sta Maria was a top-level Malaysian civil servant, trade negotiator and academic.

She was the Secretary-General of the Malaysian Ministry of International Trade and Investment from 2012 to 2016, where she oversaw the formulation of Malaysia’s international trade policies and positions and often took the lead in their implementation as chief negotiator for bilateral and regional free trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

Dr Sta Maria played an integral role in Malaysia’s participation in multilateral forums such as APEC, where she often represented her economy during the APEC Ministers’ Responsible for Trade Meetings and the Small and Medium Enterprises Ministerial Meetings.

In the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Dr Sta Maria chaired the body that drafted the ASEAN Economic Community 2015 Blueprint as well as the ASEAN Economic Community 2025 Blueprint.

An accomplished academic and writer, Dr Sta Maria’s scholarship has been recognized through awards from the American Academy of Human Resource Development and from the University of Georgia. In 2017, she authored a book about her personal slice of Malaysian heritage and cuisine, called The Smell of Home.

Before 2010, the position of executive director of the APEC Secretariat rotated yearly among officials assigned by the incumbent host economy. Starting in 2010, the appointment was opened to applications from highly qualified professionals who will when appointed, lead the Secretariat in fixed three-year terms with an option to renew.

Dr Sta Maria is the first woman executive director of the APEC Secretariat.

Chris Humphrey,
Executive Director, EU-ASEAN Business Council

Chris Humphrey is the executive director of Singapore-based EU-ASEAN Business Council; a key business association that advocates for the interests of EU businesses operating in ASEAN. It is endorsed by the European Commission and recognised by the ASEAN Secretariat.

Chris began his varied professional career as a UK civil servant where, amongst other things, he was Assistant Private Secretary to a Minister and an Air Services Trade Negotiator covering the Asia Pacific region. After leaving the civil service, Chris moved to the private sector working initially in the government and external relations teams at two British airlines in the UK, before moving to Shanghai, China with Virgin Atlantic where he headed up the airline’s China operation and oversaw the rapid expansion of their business in China. Whilst in Shanghai, Chris also sat on the Executive Committee of the British Chamber of Commerce. Chris then joined a UK based security and defence group where he led their Asia Pacific team for over five years and was instrumental in them getting contracts with the Japanese and Singapore governments and also with SOEs in China.

More recently Chris has been acting as a consultant assisting start-ups in Asia with their business and corporate development before joining the EU-ASEAN Business Council in June 2014.

With over 20 years of experience of either working for or dealing with governments and regulatory authorities, Chris is available to provide key insights, lead discussions or comment on topics including ASEAN integration, European business presence in SEA, Infrastructure financing, EU-ASEAN trade relations and EU economic and political developments.

Chris is a regular on the ASEAN conference circuit regularly appearing at conferences and seminars covering ASEAN’s integration agenda and trade and investment issues. He has also appeared on the BBC’s Asia Business Report; CNBC’s Asia Street Times; Channel News Asia’s Conversation With; 938Live Radio News; and Channel News Asia news reports.

Dr. Kaewkamol Pitakdumrongkit, Deputy Head and Assistant Professor, Centre for Multilateralism Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) Nanyang Technological University

Dr. Kaewkamol “Karen” Pitakdumrongkit is a Deputy Head and Assistant Professor at the Centre for Multilateralism Studies, at S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) of Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. She completed her MA and PhD in Political Science at the University of California, Santa Barbara, U.S.A. Her research interests include international economic negotiation, Indo-Pacific governance and integration, regional-global economic governance dynamics, ASEAN Economic Community, and ASEAN’s external relations (ASEAN-Plus frameworks). She has published in various outlets such as Asia-Pacific Bulletin, Australian Journal of International Affairs, Australian Outlook, The Diplomat, East Asia Forum, Eurasia Review, Global Asia, The International Relations of the Asia-Pacific, The Pacific Review, and The Singapore Economic Review. Her media interviews include Bangkok Post, Bloomberg, Business Times, Channel News Asia, CNBC Asia-Pacific, New Straits Times, The Nation, The Strait Times, South China Morning Post, and Xinhua.

Juan Sebastian Cortes-Sanchez, Trade Policy Analyst, Asian Trade Centre

Juan Sebastian Cortes-Sanchez is working as a Trade Policy Analyst at the Asian Trade Centre. His areas of focus include the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP)—focus on Latin American members—the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the Pacific Alliance (PA) and the development of regulatory frameworks within Next Generation Trade issues such as Cybersecurity and Data Privacy. Sebastian obtained a Honours Bachelors Degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from Yale-NUS College – Singapore. Prior to ATC, Sebastian had experience conducting due diligence and investigative research assignments at BlackPeak Group and supporting business development efforts at the Latin American Chamber of Commerce. He is fluent in English and Spanish.


Tan Sri Dr. Munir Majid
Chairman, CIMB ASEAN Research Institute
President, ASEAN Business Club

Tan Sri Dr. Munir is currently Chairman of CIMB ASEAN Research Institute, of Bank Muamalat Malaysia Berhad, of the Financial Services Professional Board, of ASEAN Business Advisory Council, Malaysia, as well as President of the ASEAN Business Club. He also sits on the board of the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia and on the Financial Services Talent Council of Bank Negara Malaysia.

He has an extensive experience and is well known in the Malaysian corporate world. He had been the Group Editor of the New Straits Times, first executive chairman of CIMB and founding chairman of the Malaysian Securities Commission. After stepping down from the Securities Commission, he became Independent Non-Executive Director of Telekom Malaysia Berhad, Chairman of Celcom (Malaysia) Berhad and Non-Executive Chairman of Malaysian Airline System Berhad. He was Founder President of the Kuala Lumpur Business Club, established in 2003 and is a member of the Court of Fellows of the Malaysian Institute of Management.

Tan Sri Dr. Munir obtained a B.Sc (Econ) and Ph.D in International Relations from the London School of Economic and Political Science (LSE) in 1971 and 1978. He is an Honorary Fellow of LSE and continues the long association with his alma mater as Visiting Senior Fellow at the Centre of International Affairs, Diplomacy and Strategy. Tan Sri Dr. Munir is an associate of Southeast Asia Centre (SEAC) at LSE.


Participation is strictly by invitation only. For further enquiries and details kindly email to