Food Safety Standards and Regulations in Malaysia: Implications for the ASEAN Integrated Region
28 Pages Posted: 22 Feb 2016
Date Written: February 21, 2016
Regulatory heterogeneity continues to be identified as a challenge for food trade in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as the progress of harmonization of food standards among Member states remains slow. One reason is the information shortcomings on the types and forms of standards and regulations imposed by Member economies, as the existing databases lack complete information. Using a new and comprehensive database on non-tariff measures (NTMs), this paper offers updated information on food safety standards and regulations and its implications, from the Malaysian perspective. This paper examines the frequency and diversity of NTMs for the food sector, and then estimates their impact on food imports from ASEAN. The food sector in Malaysia is found to be highly regulated, dominated solely by technical measures, namely labelling for sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) and technical barriers to trade (TBT) reasons, product quality and restricted substances. The frequency counts and coverage of technical measures are also comparably high in the major sub-product groups of food imports from the region. The empirical results subsequently verify that technical measures in Malaysia are indeed import restrictive. This paper therefore contends that harmonization of food standards and regulations at the regional level is indeed important for enhancing trade, as the same trends in regulatory intensity found for Malaysia, are most likely to also prevail in the food sector of other ASEAN countries. However, building common ground for food safety regulations should be NTM specific, and sector specific, to realize progress in terms of regulatory convergence. This is particularly true for the food sector, since complete harmonization is not practical and not politically feasible.
Keywords: non-tariff measures, technical measures, food, imports, coverage ratio, Malaysia, ASEAN
JEL Classification: F10; F13; L66
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation