ASEAN finance ministers and central bank governors have recently concluded a two-day meeting in the Thai city of Chiang Rai. During the conference, customs cooperation and financial infrastructure remained the top challenges for the bloc’s efforts towards deeper economic integration.
Among the major goals for the 10-nation regional association has been a faster, more efficient, and paperless customs-transit system to enable increased trade and investment among member states. According to Thai news outlet The Nation, Thailand stands to benefit significantly due to its shared borders with Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, and Myanmar.
A particularly ambitious project has been the ASEAN Single Window (ASW), designed to cut logistics costs, streamline clearing and transitioning through border customs checkpoints, and boosting both public and private sector productivity.
The project — a key component of Thailand’s ASEAN Chairmanship this year — is intended to allow for more convenient customs procedures, goods in transit, licensing approval, and tax claims.
At the close of the meeting, Thai Finance Minister Apisak Tantivorawong told reporters, “Five or six countries have developed their own single window,” adding that they are prepared to link with other ASEAN nations.
Thailand has been trying to convince other regional members to adopt the QR code payment system, through which the kingdom ties bank accounts to phone numbers and enables users to make financial transactions via mobile applications.
Singapore currently possesses its own QR-code standard and has developed an e-payment infrastructure in cooperation with Thailand to accommodate the code, known in the host country as PromptPay and in the city-state as PayNow.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has forecast that the region’s economy will grow 4.9% in 2019, slowing from 5.1% in 2018. The ADB also predicts Thailand’s gross domestic product (GDP) will grow 3.9% this year.
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