What is ASSIST?
What are the key features of ASSIST?
- Linkage to the ASEAN Trade Repository and network on National Trade Repositories maintained by ASEAN Member States where trade related information is available;
- User-friendly web-based portal that can be accessed and used, free of charge, by ASEAN enterprises experiencing trade problems when exporting their goods or services, or when investing into other ASEAN countries;
- An interactive ‘tracking system’ and ‘traffic light’ dashboard that allows the key actors to follow the online proceedings; and
- The ability of ASEAN enterprises to lodge complaints anonymously, by doing so through ASEAN-based trade associations, or other representative entities such as chambers of commerce, business councils, business federations, or registered ASEAN-based lawyers or law firms, when anonymity is desired by the complainant; and
- A public forum where data on the type and number of applications, case studies of resolved issues, and feedback from ASEAN-based enterprises may be published (under evaluation).
Who are the key actors within ASSIST?
- ASEAN Enterprise (AE): This is the ASEAN-based enterprise (or ASEAN-based association, chamber of commerce, business council, business federation or registered lawyer or law firm representing an enterprise) that raises an issue, query or complaint through ASSIST. It must be registered (i.e., business registration license) in one of the ten ASEAN Member States;
- The Central Administrator (CA): The ASEAN Secretariat is the Central Administrator of ASSIST and, in that capacity, manages the online proceedings. All communications among the key actors in ASSIST must go through the Central Administrator;
- Home Contact Point (HCP): The national body (i.e., Focal Point) in the ASEAN Member State of the complaining ASEAN Enterprise (or where the parent company is based in certain Trade in Services cases). This ministry, agency or governmental authority may intervene, if need be, to hold discussions with the Central Administrator and/or the Destination Contact Point;
- Destination Contact Point (DCP): The national body (i.e., Focal Point) in the ASEAN Member State where the issue is raised and the ASEAN Enterprise is facing trade problems. This ministry, agency or governmental authority will decide whether it wants to engage within ASSIST to offer the ASEAN Enterprise a solution, will coordinate with its national competent authorities, and it will manage all communications with the Central Administrator of ASSIST; and
- Responsible Agencies (RAs): The agency(ies) or other government representative(s) that are tasked with finding a solution to the issue. They are the competent authorities in the ASEAN Member State where the issue is raised and where the ASEAN Enterprise is facing trade problems. They will suggest a possible solution to the ASEAN Enterprise through their Destination Contact Point and thereto the Central Administrator.
How does ASSIST work?
ASSIST is based on a simple and streamlined process that largely unfolds online:
- The ASEAN Enterprise (or the ASEAN-based association, chamber of commerce, business council, business federation, or registered lawyer or law firm that is representing the ASEAN Enterprise, in cases of anonymous complaints) submits a complaint on the ASSIST website;
- If the complainant wishes for the complaint to be anonymous, the online submission may be made ‘on its behalf’ by an ASEAN-based trade association, or any other representative entity chosen by the complainant, such as an ASEAN-based chamber of commerce, business council, business federation, or registered lawyer or law firm). In this case, the complaint will be filed using the representative entity’s business registration number and no information on the actual ASEAN enterprise need to be revealed to the Home and/or Destination Contact Points. In case of a complaint filed on behalf of a client by an ASEAN-based registered lawyer or law firm, special rules apply;
- The Central Administrator reviews the complaint and may return it to the ASEAN Enterprise (or to the representative entity, in cases of anonymous complaints) for possible amendment and re-submission, if necessary;
- When accepted by the Central Administrator, the Destination Contact Point reviews the complaint and may reject it if it considers that ASSIST is not the appropriate forum for consultation or if it does not wish to address it for other compelling reasons. In this case, a justification must be given;
- If the complaint is accepted by the Destination Contact Point, the Responsible Authority(ies) in that country will search for a solution to the issue at stake;
- If a solution can be proposed, it will be notified by the Central Administrator to the complainant (i.e., the ASEAN Enterprise or the representative entity, in cases of anonymous complaints) and to the Home Contact Point; and
- The ASEAN Enterprise (or the representative entity, in cases of anonymous complaints) may accept the proposed solution or reject it and seek other dispute resolution avenues.
ASEAN Enterprises can expect practical solutions to be found through ASSIST in 20 to 50 working days maximum from the date of acceptance of the complaint by the Destination Contact Point. All solutions must be in full conformity with existing ASEAN commitments and applicable ASEAN Member States’ laws and regulations.
If the ASEAN Enterprise that lodged the complaint (or the representative entity, in cases of anonymous complaints) is not satisfied with the outcome, it may refer the case, through its ASEAN Member State of business registration, to the ASEAN Compliance Body (ACB) or to the ASEAN Enhanced Dispute Settlement Mechanism (EDSM).
Naturally, the ASEAN Enterprise (or the representative entity, in cases of anonymous complaints) may also decide to pursue national litigation or alternative dispute resolution mechanisms (i.e., mediation, conciliation or arbitration) within national ASEAN jurisdictions.
The information provided by the complainant shall be used within ASSIST and by the actors involved only for purposes of addressing the specific ASSIST complaint. Appropriate steps shall be taken to safeguard commercially sensitive or personal data at all times, especially when transferring data across the network.