ASEAN member countries are being urged to unite and strengthen their cross-border regulations in order to combat illicit trade by the Transnational Alliance to Combat Illicit Trade and the EU-ASEAN Business Council. Their joint effort aims to tackle the widespread occurrence of illegal trade within the ASEAN region, as highlighted in their recent report titled “Examining the Negative Impact of Illicit Trade on the ASEAN Community Vision 2025.”
The report sheds light on the detrimental effects of illicit trade across various sectors, including agri-food, alcohol, fisheries, forestry, petroleum, pharmaceuticals, precious metals and gemstones, pesticides, tobacco, and wildlife. Jeffrey Hardy, the director general of the alliance, emphasizes that such illicit activities directly undermine ASEAN’s objectives of promoting sustainable economic development, job creation, poverty reduction, and improved living standards throughout the region.
The report further reveals the significant damage caused by illicit trade to key economic sectors in multiple ASEAN countries. It not only hampers political security but also poses obstacles to the social and cultural goals of ASEAN. Moreover, the report emphasizes how illegal trade fuels violence, strengthens organized crime networks, impedes economic growth, obstructs tax collection efforts, endangers consumers, and contributes to human trafficking and forced labor.
Chris Humphrey, the executive director of the EU-ASEAN Business Council, emphasizes that illicit trade continues to persist as a pressing problem in the ASEAN region. He urges governments within the region to take immediate action by fostering closer collaboration and smarter engagement with the private sector. This collaborative approach aims to mitigate and ultimately eliminate the adverse impacts of illicit trade on public health and safety, government revenues, jobs, and livelihoods. By joining forces and enhancing cross-border regulations, ASEAN member countries can effectively combat illicit trade and safeguard their economies and communities.