Tuesday, November 20, 2012

ASEAN Economic Zone delayed by a year

Tuesday, 20 November 2012 19:06 Mizzima News

Several media outlets have reported that heads of state at the ASEAN summit currently underway in Phnom Penh have agreed to delay the launch of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) for 12 months from January 1 to December 31, 2015, in order to prepare policies and programs, including formalizing the necessary visa regulations among the Southeast Asian bloc.

heads of state are pictured at the ASEAN summit on Sunday morning, November 18. Photo: Myo Thant/Mizzima

The decision was reportedly made during the plenary session of the 21st ASEAN Summit on Sunday, though ASEAN has made no formal statement as yet.

The Bangkok Post quoted Lao Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Thongloun Sisoulith as saying that ASEAN leaders have agreed that the AEC could be launched on December 31, 2015.

In his opening speech as the summit’s host, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen called for a timely implementation of programs and plans of action to build the AEC and promote connectivity.

“To achieve this objective, we need to encourage ASEAN ministers to formulate necessary policy measures to be implemented before 2015 in key areas,” he said.

These included tariff and non-tariff barriers, investment liberalization, connectivity and transport, small- and medium-sized enterprise development, initiatives for ASEAN integration, mutual recognition arrangements on professional services and labor mobility, institutional building and regulatory reforms and institutional issues for AEC building, he said.

The Jakarta Globe said that Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono Yudhoyono highlighted the importance of strengthening domestic connectivity in Indonesia before embarking on region-wide connectivity programs.

According to the Philippines’ GMA News, the ASEAN Deputy Secretary General Dr. Lim Hong Hin told participants at a business forum in Makati City in Manila that “despite progress in a number of areas, 28 percent of AEC measures due to be implemented for 2008-2011 are still pending as of the end of August 2012.”

These measures cover trade—customs modernization standards and conformity and services liberalization—investments, agriculture, consumer protection, and ratification of transportation agreements, he said.

ASEAN members have failed to comply with decisions, treaties and protocols at national levels, Lim noted.

AEC is a single market and production base economy where goods, services, investments, capital, and skilled labor can flow freely within a community of nations—home to 600 million people and a combined gross domestic product of more than US $1.13 trillion.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, comprises 10 countries: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar [Burma], The Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

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