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ASEAN push for integration

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Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh speaks during a meeting of ASEAN economic ministers in Siem Reap last week. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post

ASEAN economic ministers on Friday agreed to spur stronger cooperation and make more of an effort to enhance the region’s integration in preparation for the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015.

Speaking during the press conference on the closing of the 44th ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Meeting and related meetings in Siem Reap during the last week in August, Cham Prasidh, Cambodia’s ASEAN economic minister, highlighted the fruitful and successful outcome of the meetings, however he said challenges still remain to be addressed and more work is to be done before the group is fully ready for integration.

“We believe that with sound political input and increased political will expressed by the leaders, those hesitations would be erased and there will be fewer challenges for us to achieve the goal of integration,” said Cham Prasidh.

Surin Pitsuwan, ASEAN secretary-general, said the members of ASEAN have achieved and done a lot work towards achieving their goal, as so far they have ratified about 72 to 73 per cent of the crucial instruments of cooperation.

“Our remaining challenges are how to implement every one of those instruments, and how to translate the regional ASEAN commitments into the national agendas, rules, laws and regulations,” he said.

The ministers acknowledged the need to ensure the timely realisation of the AEC by 2015 through the prioritisation of the concrete key measures to address challenges faced in the implementation of the AEC as mentioned in the Phnom Penh Agenda for ASEAN Community Building issued by the leaders at the 20th ASEAN Summit held in April this year, according to the joint media statement on Friday.

They tasked the AEC sectoral bodies with allocating sufficient resources to realise their respective deliverables for 2015 to transform ASEAN into a single market and production base, and a highly competitive region with the equitable economic development, fully integrated into the global economy.

At the same time, the ministers welcomed the robust performance and continued resilience of ASEAN in 2011, which grew by 4.7 per cent even through the uncertainty in the global economy. They pointed out their growth was the result of resilient domestic demand, strong macroeconomic fundamentals, sound balance sheets of banks and the corporate sector, as well as an ongoing structural reforms since 1997.

“We are confident that our economic expansion will remain healthy this year, with a projected GDP between 5.2 per cent and 5.9 per cent,” the ministers said in the statement.

The ministers were also pleased to note that ASEAN’s trade grew by 16.8 per cent from US$2.05 trillion in 2010 to $2.39 trillion in 2011 despite the slowdown in global trade, while intra-ASEAN trade remained strong at $598 billion. Japan was the top export destination, followed by China, the European Union and the United States.

At the same time, export and import in services grew by about 10 per cent in 2011, according to the statement. Travel, transportation, other business and financial services continue to be the top service export sectors.

To contact the reporter on this story: May Kunmakara at kunmakara.may@phnompenhpost.com

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