Southeast Asian heads of state and government met in Bangkok for a three-day, trade-dominated summit. ASEAN members are working to finalize a China-backed plan for the creation of the world`s largest free trade area. Although these ASEAN national customs and trade authorities coordinate with each other, disputes can arise. The ASEAN secretariat does not have the legal authority to resolve these disputes, so disputes are resolved bilaterally through informal means or dispute resolution. 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. Read also: The Real Winners of the U.S.-China Trade Dispute This new analysis proposes to explore two key areas, including port facilities and competitiveness in the Internet services sector.
According to the report, reforms in these areas could increase ASEAN trade by 7.5% ($22 billion) and 5.7% ($17 billion). On the other hand, a reduction in tariffs on all ASEAN members on the South-East Asia regional average would increase intra-regional trade by about 2% ($6.3 billion).  The ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) is a trade agreement of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to support local trade and production in all ASEAN countries and facilitate 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.       During the same period, ASEAN officials signed five major free trade agreements with other countries in the Asia-Pacific region.