More Countries Join ASEAN’s Treaty of Amity and Cooperation

Posted by Written by Ayman Falak Medina Reading Time: 4 minutes
  • In early November, South Africa, Thailand, and Cuba became signatories to ASEAN’s Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC), joining 40 other countries to have done so.
  • The TAC is a peace treaty signed in 1976 between ASEAN members to establish a set of guidelines to govern inter-state relations in the region.
  • By becoming signatories, the three countries hope to broaden their collaboration with ASEAN through various sectors and industries.

On November 10, 2020, South Africa, Colombia, and Cuba joined ASEAN’s Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) in a move that will broaden collaboration between the countries and ASEAN.

The TAC is a peace treaty signed in 1976 among ASEAN members to establish a set of guidelines to govern inter-state relations in the region, promote perpetual peace and cooperation among signatories. China and India were the first countries from outside of ASEAN to accede to the treaty in 2003 with the United States and the European Union both acceding in 2009.

Parties to the TAC are guided by the following principles:

  1. Mutual respect for the independence, sovereignty, equality, territorial integrity, and national identity of all nations;
  2. The right of every State to lead its national existence free from external interference, subversion, or coercion;
  3. Non-interference in the internal affairs of one another;
  4. Settlement of differences or disputes by peaceful means;
  5. Renunciation of the threat or use of force; and
  6. Effective cooperation among themselves.

The signing ceremony by the three countries was held online, and the TAC now comprises more than 40 signatories.

South Africa keen to boost trade with ASEAN

Total trade between South Africa and ASEAN annually over US$7 billion, with ASEAN enjoying a trade surplus.

The country’s largest trading partners in the bloc are Singapore, Thailand, and, Indonesia. South Africa mainly exports organic chemicals, inorganic chemicals, metallic ores, horticulture, and iron and steel. The country imports mostly textiles and garments, footwear, electronic goods, refined petroleum oils, automotive products, and palm oil.

While South Africa has diplomatic relations with individual members of ASEAN, accession to the treaty will help facilitate closer trade relations with ASEAN as a bloc. The country is only the third African country to be a signatory after Egypt and Morocco.

South Africa is eager to tap into ASEAN’s burgeoning middle-class, making it a pivotal market for South African products. 

One way to accelerate such trade is to forge partnerships with ASEAN through the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AFCFTA), to which South Africa is a member. Established in 2018, the AFCFTA is a free trade area comprising of 1.3 billion people and 55 countries. The agreement is expected to lift some 70 million Africans out of moderate poverty and increase Africa’s exports by US$560 billion; mostly in the manufacturing sector.

Improving ASEAN-Colombia relations could help boost trade with Pacific Alliance

With Colombia acceding to the TAC, this could help boost trade relations between ASEAN and the Pacific Alliance (PA).

The PA is a Latin American trade bloc consisting of Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru, established in 2011. The bloc makes up 28 percent of the GDP of the Latin America and Caribbean region, in addition to attracting 50 percent of total trade and 45 percent of foreign direct investment. Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines, and Thailand are observer countries of the PA.

Despite ASEAN-Colombia trade reaching only above US$1 billion annually, two-way trade between ASEAN and the PA reached over US$20 billion in 2018. Colombia exports agricultural products such as coffee and avocado in addition to minerals and wood.

At the 3rd ASEAN-Pacific Alliance Ministerial Meeting in 2016, both blocs designed the ASEAN-Pacific Alliance Framework for Cooperation, which aims to adopt a practical approach to improve cooperation in a variety of areas such as trade and investment, agriculture, urban infrastructure, and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) development.

There are several areas of cooperation which both sides agreed to prioritize, these are:

  • Economic cooperation;
  • Education and people-to-people contacts;
  • Science, technology, and innovation; and
  • Sustainable development.

Cuba becomes the first country from the Caribbean to sign TCA

Cuba was the first signatory of the TCA from the Caribbean as the country seeks to enhance its relations with ASEAN amid the ongoing trade embargo by the US and the economic impact caused by the pandemic. Additionally, the Asia-Pacific region is the third most important partner for Cuba in terms of trade, and second in terms of exports.

Vietnam is Cuba’s second-largest trading partner behind China, and the two countries signed a bilateral trade agreement which came into force in May 2020. The agreement will see Vietnam eliminate over 500 lines of tariffs on Cuban imports particularly in the fields of healthcare and pharmaceuticals and increase trade to US$500 million by 2022.

Cuba has one of the most proactive primary healthcare systems in the world and its child mortality rates are on par with some of the richest countries. The country has also produced innovative medical research such as pioneering the first and only vaccine against meningitis B in 1985.

Cuban cooperation in the fields of biotechnology, healthcare, and education has expanded to other members of ASEAN, namely, Indonesia, Laos, and Cambodia. The country’s biotechnology expertise has attracted collaboration from companies Thailand, Singapore, and China.

Siam Bioscience — a Thai biotech firm — became the first company in the region to sign a joint venture agreement with Cuba for the establishment of a manufacturing plant for medical products as well as the transfer of biotech expertise. Such partnerships will allow Thai patients to access higher-quality medicines at lower prices in addition to reducing costs to expand to other ASEAN markets.

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