Prime Minister Hun Sen has called for the removal of all tariff and non-tariff barriers when the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) integrates in 2015, saying it is of central importance.
Speaking at the opening of an ASEAN symposium in Phnom Penh on Tuesday, the premier said integration of the rural economy into the ASEAN and global production networks and markets through better connectivity would promote equitable development in the region.
“Tariff and non-tariff barriers should be all removed for a deeper economic integration, and ASEAN can announce this decision when it declares the establishment of the AEC in 2015,” he said.
Hun Sen said ASEAN was now known not only as a region of peace, stability and high growth, but as a closely integrated political and economic entity, an influential player in Asia and in indispensable strategic partner of major countries and organisations in the world.
The premier also called for enhanced trade facilitation, further services liberalisation and a regional framework for liberalising and facilitating cross-border capital flows.
The connectivity and transport facilitation should be further enhanced for creating a single market and a resilient production base in ASEAN, he said.
Hun Sen also said the importance of small and medium-sized enterprises in expanding employment and entrepreneurial opportunities, and efficient transport logistics and distribution services, would be needed to underpin the competitiveness of manufacturing industries in the region.
He said a healthy SME sector was necessary for promoting equitable growth in the region while it progressed towards the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community.
Hun Sen said the successful building of an ASEAN economic community by 2015 would transform the region into a global market with a resilient production base and a free flow of goods, services, investment, skilled labour and investment capital.
The premier also said Cambodia wanted to encourage ASEAN members and their development partners to continue their close co-operation in accelerating the process towards the establishment of AEC by 2015.
The two-day symposium was jointly organised by the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA), the Royal Government of Cambodia and Harvard University.
The symposium included panel discussions, from various officials from ministries and governmental agencies, diplomats and academics to discussions on issues towards “realising a more integrated, competititve, equitable and resilient ASEAN community.”
Jayant Menon, lead economist at the Asian Development Bank, focused on how to make ASEAN integration and growth inclusive.
According to Menon, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV) have enjoyed rapid growth, resulting in convergence and narrowing development gaps within ASEAN.
But at the same time, it had increased polarisation and affected inequality within the CLMV countries, Menon said yesterday.
“This is convergence across countries occurring at the expense of polarisation within countries,” he said.
Referring to data for Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, Menon said the income share held by the richest 20 per cent had become higher while the income share of the lowest 20 per cent in these countries had fallen.
To achieve convergence without polarisation required, for example, investment especially in education but also in health, according to Menon.