Six ASEAN countries will abolish tariffs on 85 percent of electronic products traded among each other by next January, some three years ahead of schedule, officials said yesterday.
Ramon Vicente Kabigting, a director at the Philippines' department of trade and industry said the six countries to accelerate the program were Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.
"Because it is a priority sector, 85 percent of the products will have zero tariff next year," he said.
"Eighty-five percent of the products will cross the borders freely. This will lower costs and make the products more competitive," he added.
An ASEAN official confirmed the move.
"Duties covered under the priority sector integration will be eliminated by January 2007," he said on condition of anonymity.
ASEAN economic officials are meeting here ahead of next week's ministerial talks to chart the region's ambitious move to advance economic integration by five years to 2015.
The senior officials are preparing to brief the ministers on the status of preparations to abolish the tariffs.
Electronics is among 12 priority sectors that ASEAN plans to liberalize in its quest to form a regional economic community aimed at wooing back foreign investment that in recent years has been heading to China and India.
Kabigting said each country has a list of electronic goods that will enjoy zero tariffs but some have excluded finished consumer items like washing machines and air conditioners.
"It means these items will only enjoy zero tariff rates come 2010," he said.
Electronic products make up some 50 percent of total intra-ASEAN trade.
Other priority sectors for liberalization include: automotive, garments and textiles, e-commerce, healthcare, air travel, hospitality and tourism, wood-based products, rubber and agro-based products and logistics.