The political economy of the asean free trade area (afta) - səhifə 7
different ASEAN countries sufficient time to prepare for full investment liberalisation in
2020. This argument appears to have some merit if we consider the way the AIA
Agreement was framed. The original Agreement, in fact, specified that full market access
and national treatment privileges were to be accorded to all investors immediately where
possible, but allowed governments to maintain temporary exemptions in a variety of
sectors and policy areas as they saw fit (ASEAN, 1998).
Yet, this does not explain why ASEAN investors were allowed full market accessand national treatment privileges ten years earlier than foreign investors. The exemptions,
which were fairly extensive, were to be removed by 2003 and 2010 for ASEAN investors
and only in 2020 for all other foreign investors (ASEAN Secretariat, 1999). Such a move
would not have protected domestic investors from all external investors, since other
ASEAN investors were to be treated as domestic investors from 2003/2010. This suggests
that there were other dynamics apart from the FDI dynamic that shaped the development
of AFTA. As the following discussion reveals, domestic political priorities centred on the
need to preserve emerging domestic-owned capital that was politically salient in the face
of a different set of globalisation pressures also influenced the design of AFTA.
Anticipated changes in multilateral investment rules
Attempts by advanced country governments and their TNCs during the 1990s to
develop global rules to lower and remove ‘beyond the border’ barriers to free trade
(Smythe, 2000: 72) constituted a second set of globalisation pressures and incentives that
confronted the ASEAN governments. In particular, it was the move through forums like
APEC, the WTO and the OECD to develop a multilateral regime for investment that
would maximise freedom of operation for foreign investors in as many countries as
possible that was especially salient. Even though these attempts through the OECD and
APEC were unsuccessful, many developing country governments including in ASEAN
expected guarantees to foreign investors to be written into the WTO framework eventually
(Khor, 2001: 86).
Although a group of developing countries including Malaysia and Indonesiasuccessfully kept investment off the negotiating agenda for the First WTO Ministerial
Meeting in 1996, many governments regarded this reprieve to be only temporary. These
expectations were not misplaced. A working group on investment was established at the
1996 Ministerial to study the feasibility of incorporating investment into the WTO in the
future. In 1998, the WTO General Council decided that the working group should
continue its work until the Seattle ministerial meeting in 1999 when members would
decide on whether to incorporate investment within the WTO (WTO, 1998). The
European Commission was particularly interested in ensuring that the national treatment
principle formed a key part of any future WTO regime on investment (Khor, 2001: 87).
Expectations of an impending global investment regime reinforced perceptions in ASEAN
of further intensification of market competition for domestic firms and of the potential
dominance of foreign corporations. They led at least two of the five original ASEAN
national governments to contemplate providing preferential investment treatment for
ASEAN firms in the AFTA regional market as a means to build up domestic firms.
The ASEAN response
The concerns about a global free investment regime were strongest in Indonesia
and especially Malaysia and were centred on the future of domestic firms. Although the
Malaysian government had instituted extensive neoliberal economic reforms from the
mid-1980s, the government and the private sector both saw foreign interest in negotiating
global investment rules as posing the biggest threat to domestic companies.
Theexpectation was that global rules would eventually allow foreign corporations unrestricted
access to the domestic market. Malaysian policymakers had, by the early 1990s, begun to
voice their reservations about the country’s overwhelming dependence on FDI and
articulated the importance of nurturing Malaysian multinationals.
In response to movesto include investment into the inaugural WTO agenda, Malaysian trade minister Rafidah
Aziz argued against the idea of full market access and national treatment privileges for
foreign investors. She pointed out that such a move would prevent national governments
from implementing “national level investment policies … to enable [domestic firms] to
grow and be able to compete with large established foreign firms”.
Indonesia expressedsimilar concerns, and formally objected to the inclusion of investment in the WTO agenda
together with Malaysia and six other developing countries.
Singapore, the most open of
Interview with Ong Hong Cheong, former coordinator of Malaysian participation in OECD workshops,May 2001.
See Ali (1992) and Abdullah Tahir, quoted in Felker (1998: 247).16 Business Times, ‘Malaysia against restrictive investment rules: Rafidah’, 10 July 1996.
Business Times, ‘Malaysia, seven others jointly oppose new WTO rules’, 5 November 1996.13
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