KUALA LUMPUR, April 25 — Asean has made good progress in meeting all measures stipulated in the Asean Economic Community (AEC) Blueprint, especially on the establishment of a single market and production base, said Dr Lim Hong Hin, Asean Deputy Secretary-General for the AEC .
He said senior economic officials from the respective member countries have identified higher implementation priority to be implemented based on the 21st Asean Economic Ministers Retreat which took place end of March in Kelantan.
“All countries are committed to ensure that the high priority measures under AEC’s four pillars will be implemented by the end of the year,” he said.
The AEC’s four key pillars are a single market and production base; a highly competitive economic region; a region of equitable economic development; and a region fully integrated into the global economy.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the Asean Senior Economic Officials Meeting-European Union (SOEM-EU), here today, Lim said that most of the measures to create a single market and production base appeared fruitful.
“We are trying hard to promote free flow services, investment, skilled labour and capital,” he said.
Lim added that the meeting was also looking at transport, energy and competition and intellectual property to achieve a highly competitive region.
In order to integrate with the global economy, Lim said Asean has begun a free trade agreement (FTA) negotiation with Hong Kong to bring larger advantages for the small and medium enterprises.
“We are trying to consolidate the existing FTAs under one umbrella and streamline various different rules and procedures to facilitate SMEs export activities,” he said.
Currently, Asean’s FTAs are the Asean-Australia-New Zealand FTA (AANZFTA), the Asean-China FTA (ACFTA), the Asean-India FTA (AIFTA), the Asean-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership (AJCEP) and the Asean-South Korea FTA (AKFTA).
Meanwhile, he said there was strong expectation from the private sector under the Asean Business Advisory Council in terms of AEC’s benefit to the business community.
“They also want to ensure all measures are fully implemented. But, let’s put it into perspective, it does not mean that by end of 2015 everything is done because regional integration is an ongoing progress,” he stressed.
He pointed out that the European Union, a politico-economic union of 28 member states in Europe, was the first to start with a common market, followed by customs and banking unions, and now an energy union.
However, Lim said that Asean hoped to provide a bigger platform for the community to broaden and deepen regional integration by year-end.
“We expect the leaders to announce that we have the Asean Community and AEC in place, as well as share what is going to happen in the next 10 years.
“This 10-year work plan called the Asean Post-2015 is currently being developed by 18 sectoral groups,” he explained.
The Asean Senior Economic Officials Meeting-EU is held ahead of the 26th Asean Summit on April 26-27 here and in Langkawi.
The closed-door meeting held to prepare the final groundwork for the summit, is chaired by International Trade and Industry Ministry Secretary-General Datuk Dr Rebecca Fatima Sta Maria.
Also present was European Commission Head of Unit, Trade Relations with South and Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand, Helena König.
Established in 1967, Asean comprises 10 countries namely Brunei Darussalam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. — Bernama