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ASEAN Committed to Focus on Single Trading Bloc

ASEAN Committed to Focus on Single Trading BlocASEAN Committed to Focus on Single Trading Bloc

Regional economic integration through the ASEAN Economic Community will be a key focus of the 47th ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Meeting and Related Meetings, which opened on Saturday.

From Aug 22 to 25, economic ministers from Southeast Asia will, among other things, iron out details for the AEC–a plan for a single market and production base among the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Channel NewsAsia reported.

ASEAN has set a deadline on Dec 31, 2015 to formally launch the regional trading bloc.

In his opening speech, Malaysia’s Minister of International Trade and Industry Mustapa Mohamed said more than 91% of the AEC blueprint measures have been implemented, with another 46 measures to go.

Some in the business community have, however, questioned the progress of the talks and worry that the four ASEAN states involved in negotiations for the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement–a free trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations, including the United States may be distracted.

“I know that some members of the business community have been quite cynical at the speed of which ASEAN is moving,” he said.

“I must admit that the establishment of the AEC at the end of 2015 does not imply that come Jan 1, 2016, all red tape gets untangled and that trade and investment will flow freely across borders, and that there will be free movement of people and harmonization of standards.

“But what the establishment of the AEC means is that ASEAN is reaching one of the key milestones on the ASEAN journey.”

Mustapa said despite economic challenges facing all ASEAN states, the countries are committed to staying the course of regional economic integration to reduce “the gaps among us and engage more intensively without partner countries”.

Aside from the AEC, ASEAN nations will also be continuing talks for a proposed free trade agreement with Australia, China, India, Korea, Japan and New Zealand–the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

ASEAN aims to announce the formation of the ASEAN Community at the end of this year, which will comprise three core pillars, namely the ASEAN Political Security Community; ASEAN Economic Community and ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community.

On the AEC, which will create a single market and production base in the region, Mustapa said its creation will not mean that all red tape will become untangled and that all trade and investment will flow freely across borders come Jan 1 next year.

“What the establishment of the AEC means is that ASEAN is reaching one of the key milestones on the ASEAN journey.”

Economic ministers from ASEAN countries as well as the regional body’s dialogue partners are attending the three-day meeting held at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Center.

Financialtribune.com