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During the same period, ASEAN officials signed five major free trade agreements (FTA) with other countries in the Asia-Pacific region. These measures have helped to reduce tariffs, streamline regulations and simplify export and import processes in general. Therefore, these economic integration initiatives offer significant opportunities for ASEAN-based companies. ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, is gaining importance as a trading bloc and is now the third largest in the world after the European Union and the North American Free Trade Agreement. Composed of the Asian Tigers of Indonesia, Malaysia, philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam (ASEAN 6) with the smallest players such as Brunei, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, it has a combined GDP of US$2.31 trillion (2012) and is home to about 600 million people. In order to promote greater use of the CEPTAFTA system, substantial conversion has also been introduced as an alternative rule for determining the origin of CEPT products. The CEPT Rules of Origin Working Group is currently working on key processing rules for certain product sectors, including wheat flour, iron and steel and the 11 priority integration sectors covered by Bali Concord II. Towards trade, ASEAN exports had returned to their upward trend in the two years following the 1997-1998 financial crisis, peaking in 2000, when total exports were estimated at $408 billion. After falling to $366.8 billion in 2001 due to the economic slowdown in the United States and Europe and the recession in Japan, ASEAN exports recovered in 2002 from an estimated $380.2 billion. The upward trend in ASEAN-6 continued in the first two quarters of 2003. Intra-ASEAN trade increased by 4.2 per cent and 1.6 per cent, respectively, in exports and imports in the first two quarters of 2003. [Figures 2, 3 and 4] Abstract: There is little doubt that trade liberalization has had a profound impact on the well-being of women in Southeast Asia. However, not all of these effects are negative.
In fact, the opening of the region`s economies, both at the national and regional level, has opportunities in the. These two agreements have the collective influence to make ASEAN the strategic center of global sourcing and manufacturing. With ASEAN`s own middle class of 150 million consumers, this market alone, then twinned with China and India`s 250 million each, represents an entire middle-class consumer market with full free trade of about 650 million people – today. By 2030, given Asia`s growing prosperity and momentum, about 64% of the global middle class will be based in Asia, which accounts for 40% of the total global consumption of the middle class. The ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) is a trade bloc agreement of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations that supports local trade and production in all ASEAN countries and facilitates economic integration with regional and international allies.    It is considered one of the largest and most important free trade areas (FTAs) in the world and, together with its network of dialogue partners, has promoted some of the world`s largest multilateral forums and blocs, including the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, the East Asia Summit and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.       The management of AFTA is handled by the national customs and trade authorities of each ASEAN member. . .