The ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA)  is a trade agreement of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations that supports local trade and local production in all ASEAN countries and facilitates economic integration with regional and international allies.    It is one of the largest and most important free trade zones in the world and, with its network of dialogue partners, has promoted some of the world`s largest multilateral forums and blocs, including Asia-Pacific economic cooperation, the East Asia Summit and regional economic partnership.       An Introduction to Tax Contracts Throughout Asia In this issue of Asia Briefing Magazine, we examine the different types of trade and tax agreements that exist between Asian nations. These include bilateral investment agreements, bilateral double taxation agreements and free trade agreements that cover all companies directly active in Asia. In order to encourage increased use of the CEPTAFTA system, a major transformation has also been adopted as an alternative rule for determining the origin of CEPT products. The CEPT Rules of Origin Task Force is currently working on key processing rules for certain product sectors, including wheat flour, iron and steel, and the eleven priority integration sectors covered by Bali Concord II. ASEAN exports increased their upward trend in the two years following the 1997-98 financial crisis and peaked in 2000, when total exports were valued at $408 billion. Following the fall in ASEAN exports to $366.8 billion in 2001 as a result of the economic slowdown in the United States and Europe and the recession in Japan, ASEAN exports recovered in 2002 to $380.2 billion. The upward trend in ASEAN-6 continued until the first two quarters of 2003. In the first two quarters of 2003, intra-ASEAN trade increased by 4.2% and 1.6% respectively in exports and imports. [Figures 2, 3 and 4] Singapore`s extensive free trade agreements (FTAs), combined with a transparent legal system and a trained workforce, have been evaluated to accelerate the country`s transformation into a first world economy. The United States, the European Union and Japan continued to be ASEAN`s main export markets.
Japan, followed by the United States and the EU, was ASEAN`s main source of imports. In the first half of 2002-03, ASEAN-6 trade with major markets increased by 11.71% for exports and 6.91% for imports. However, ASEAN exports to the United States and India, as well as imports from Canada and India, declined over the same period. [Figure 5] ASEAN has a similar free trade agreement with India, which is being phased in and is reducing tariffs to 90% of all goods traded between ASEAN and India. In 2016, import and export duties on more than 4,000 products will be abolished. This will have a similar effect to that of the free trade agreement with China, as it opens the Indian consumer market to ASEAN manufactured goods. Indeed, India has a considerable middle-class consumer market in its own right of about 250 million, although it is not expected to grow as rapidly in the short term as China.