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ASEAN Expects Stronger Growth
World Economy

ASEAN Expects Stronger Growth

Economic ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) expect the region's economy to perform better this year despite the uncertain global outlook.
They said this on Sunday at the end of the 21st ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Retreat that began on Saturday in Kota Bharu, Malaysia, Channel NewsAsia reported.

“We expect ASEAN’s economic performance to improve in 2015 to 5.1 percent, above the 3.5 percent global growth projection. We based this on the stronger demand in advanced economies, energized by the robust US recovery and several policy stimulus measures in the Eurozone and Japan,” the ministers said in a statement.
Despite the global economic and geopolitical challenges faced by ASEAN members, deepening economic integration in the region would serve as a buffer in helping ASEAN progress and prosper, they added.
ASEAN groups Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei together with Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos. The regional grouping is working towards building an ASEAN economic community (AEC) by the end of this year.
A single ASEAN time zone will not only allow business integration within the region but boost inbound trade and increase the spirit of oneness, said Asean Business Advisory Council chairman Tan Sri Dr Mohd Munir Abdul Majid.

  AEC Blueprint
According to the ministers, steady progress has been made in implementing the AEC Blueprint.
“Benefits are already flowing to ASEAN businesses and consumers, from significant tariff liberalization, progress in trade facilitation measures such as self-certification, simplification of customs procedures, and the Mutual Recognition Arrangements on the movement of skilled professionals in the region. ASEAN has also put in place legal structures on competition, consumer protection and intellectual property, contributing to an improved environment for business.”
“The formal establishment of the AEC by end-2015 marks a major milestone in ASEAN’s effort to fulfil the goal of an integrated region. The implementation of the AEC measures does not mean that ASEAN will become a single economic entity by January 1, 2016, rather it sends a strong signal that positive measures have been put in place towards a more liberalized and integrated economic region,” the ministers added.

  Trade and Investment
ASEAN economic ministers will discuss further, the proposed establishment of a micro enterprises bank operating in each member country, Malaysia’s International Trade and Industry Minister, Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said, according to Bernama report.
He said the move, mooted by the ASEAN-Business Advisory Council, will focus purely on small and micro enterprises that are keen to expand business and investments to member countries.
At a press conference on the final day, he said more time was needed to discuss the proposal for the bank, which is expected to enhance contributions from small and micro enterprises.
“This is one of the many ideas that we have to assist the small and micro enterprises, while at the same time boost intra-ASEAN trade and investment.
“However, this proposal will be further discussed, as every member country had its own national initiatives.
“So, we have to align whatever proposal with the national institutions which are in place, if we are really interested,” he added.

  Assistance
At present, each member country had its own approach towards assisting the small and micro enterprises, Mustapa said, adding, Malaysia for one, has had a “Micro Financing Scheme” for a long time.
Under the scheme, cooperative banks and specialized credit windows of banks offer business loans ranging from RM500 to RM50,000 for the small and micro enterprises.
Economic ministers from ASEAN member states have been huddled here from Friday for a crucial meeting to advance plans for the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).
The retreat, one of the many ASEAN meetings held in conjunction with Malaysia’s leadership of ASEAN in 2015, is chaired by Mustapa.
Malaysia’s theme for the chairmanship of ASEAN is, “Our People, Our Community, Our Vision.”

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