The management of THE AFTA is managed by the national customs and trade authorities of each ASEAN member. The ASEAN secretariat is authorized to monitor and ensure compliance with AFTA`s measures, but it does not have the legal authority to enforce them. This has led to inconsistent decisions taken by the ASEAN national authorities. The ASEAN Charter aims to strengthen the capacity of the ASEAN secretariat to ensure consistent implementation of AFTA`s measures. In the longer term, Li called the agreement a “victory for multilateralism and free trade.” The trade agreement allows China – by far the largest economy and the most populous country in the region – to call itself “a champion of globalization and multilateral cooperation,” Gareth Leather, Asia`s chief capital economic economist, said in a report. Efforts to close the development gap and expand trade among ASEAN members are essential elements of the political debate. According to a 2008 research mandate published by the World Bank as part of its “Trade Costs and Relief” project, ASEAN members have the potential to reap significant benefits from investment in new trade facilitation reforms, as a result of the important customs reform already implemented by the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement. ASEAN, the association of Southeast Asian nations, is gaining importance as a trading bloc and is the third largest in the world after the European Union and the North American Free Trade Agreement. It includes the Asian Tigers of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam (ASEAN 6) with smaller players such as Brunei, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, with a total GDP of $2.31 trillion (2012) and hosts about 600 million people. ASEAN national authorities are also traditionally reluctant to share or cede sovereignty to the authorities of other ASEAN members (although ASEAN trade ministries regularly conduct cross-border visits to conduct on-site checks as part of anti-dumping investigations).
Unlike the EU or NAFTA, joint teams to ensure compliance and control of violations have not been widely used. Instead, ASEAN national authorities must rely on the verification and analysis of other ASEAN national authorities to determine whether AFTA`s measures, such as the rule of origin, are being complied with. Differences of opinion may arise between national authorities. Again, the ASEAN secretariat can help resolve a dispute, but it has no right to resolve it. On November 15, 2020, 15 countries – members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and five regional partners – signed the Comprehensive Regional Economic Partnership (RCEP), probably the largest free trade agreement in history. The RCEP and the 2018 Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) agreement, also dominated by East Asian members, are the only major multilateral free trade agreements signed during the Trump era.