ASEAN economic ministers agree to deepen integration efforts

September 1st, 2012 - 12:39 am ICT by IANS  

Siem Reap (Cambodia), Aug 31 (Xinhua) Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) economic ministers agreed Friday to deepen the bloc’s integration efforts towards realising an ASEAN Economic Community by 2015, officials said.

Speaking in a press briefing after the week-long 44th ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting and related meetings, Cambodian Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh said the meetings were wrapped up successfully and the ministers agreed to “deepen ASEAN integration” in order to achieve the economic community, reported Xinhua.

He said that on its way to the community in 2015, the bloc is still facing a number of challenges or local sensitivity that needs to be addressed.

“But we believe that with sound political input, some more political wills to be expressed by the leaders, those hesitations would be erased and would be less and less challenges for us to achieve the goal,” said the minister, also the chair of 2012 ASEAN.

ASEAN secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan said that ASEAN has done well in terms of soft infrastructure such as agreements, protocols, and various elements of cooperation and coordination among member states.

“So far, ASEAN has ratified about 72 to 73 percent of all the major instruments of cooperation among ASEAN,” he told the press briefing.

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

He expressed his confidence that ASEAN will be able to achieve an ASEAN Economic Community on schedule thanks to ASEAN’s joint commitment and help from dialogue partners.

After the week-long meetings, the economic ministers expressed their satisfaction with ASEAN’s economic growth of 4.7 percent last year despite the heightened uncertainties in the global economy, according to a joint media statement on Friday.

The ministers were also pleased that ASEAN’s merchandise trade grew at 16.8 percent from $2.05 trillion in 2010 to $2.39 trillion in 2011 despite the slowdown global trade, with intra-ASEAN trade remained strong at $598 billion.

Founded in 1967, ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

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