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The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was created in 1967 with the signing of the ASEAN Declaration by Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Brunei Darussalam then joined in 1984, Viet Nam in 1995, Lao PDR and Myanmar in 1997, and Cambodia in 1999, arriving at the current number of ten Member States. These ten countries with a total land area of 4.4 million sq. km. are home to 600 million.

In 2003, ASEAN Heads of State agreed to establish an ASEAN Community by 2020, a community nations that is outward looking, living in peace, stability and prosperity, bonded together in partnership in dynamic development and in a community of caring societies. The ASEAN Community has three pillars, namely, the ASEAN Political-Security Community, the ASEAN Economic Community and the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community.

ASEAN has identified harmonization of national standards with international standards, practices and guides; harmonization of mandatory technical requirements to ensure free movement of goods; and harmonization of conformity assessment procedures to save transaction time and to avoid high cost through multiple testing requirements as ways to respond to the challenge of addressing technical barriers to trade in ASEAN while at the same time ensuring that the aims of having a systems of standards and conformance (which are to promote greater efficiency and enhance cost effectiveness in the production of intra-regional imports/exports) are realized.

The ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) seeks to create ASEAN as a single market and production base and an economic region by 2020. This economic community is being created through regional integration of the following priority sectors, namely agro-based products, air travel, automotives, e-ASEAN, electronics, fisheries, healthcare, rubber-based products, textiles and apparels, tourism, wood-based products, logistics and such other sectors as may be identified by ASEAN for economic integration. The healthcare sector includes pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, medical devices, traditional medicines and health supplements. In2007, ASEAN decided to accelerate the establishment of this ASEAN economic region by 2015.

For the health supplement category, the output expected is the development of an ASEAN Regulatory Framework on Traditional Medicines and Health Supplements and transposition of the ASEAN Regulatory Framework into national laws of ASEAN Member States.

In most regions of the world, such harmonisation would be expected to take in excess of five to ten years. ASEAN, however, has set itself the challenging task of harmonising its key priority areas within just five years, with implementation to begin next year and be complete by 2015.

The ASEAN bodies involved in the harmonisation of technical requirements on health supplements are as follows:

Industry involvement in the harmonisation of health supplements in ASEAN is recognised under the ASEAN Charter and the ASEAN Policy Guideline on Standards and Conformance.

AAHSA, as the regional representative of the health supplement industry, has a seat at the table of the 10 ASEAN governments in the ACCSQ meetings, including its product working group and scientific committee.

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