​The ASEAN ministers at the opening ceremony (Photo: VNA)

Vientiane (VNA) – The 48th ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Meeting (AEM-48) and related events wound up in Vientiane, Laos in the afternoon of August 6, finishing heavy agenda and reaping fruitful outcomes.

The Vietnamese delegation to these events was led by Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh.

A number of meetings took place as part of the AEM-48 and related events, including the 30th meeting of the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) Council, the 19th meeting of the ASEAN Economic Ministers and the ASEAN Investment Area Council, ASEAN’s consultations with 10 partners, the fourth meeting of economic ministers from the 16 countries joining in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the eighth Mekong – Japan Economic Ministers’ Meeting, and the eighth Economic Minsters’ Meeting of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV).

The AEM-48 and related events were held as 2016 is the first year to implement the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Blueprint 2025 after the ASEAN leaders established the community on December 31, 2015. The focus of this year is building the foundation for realising this blueprint effectively.

At the AEM-48, the ASEAN economic ministers considered and approved many frameworks for enhancing intra-bloc economic cooperation such as those on trade facilitation, food safety management, and small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)’ access to finance.

They reviewed the bloc’s economic integration and suggested initiatives with the aim of practically benefiting the business community.

They also reached high consensus on other spheres, including enforcing the ninth package of commitments under the ASEAN Framework Agreement on Services, and the ASEAN agreement on the movement of natural persons.

The officials agreed to promote the finalisation of the second protocol amending the ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement, the protection of intellectual property rights, fair competition, and SME support.

To reinforce economic partnerships with partner countries, the ASEAN ministers held dialogues with their counterparts from China, the Republic of Korea, Japan, India, Australia, New Zealand, the US, Russia, Canada and Hong Kong (China).

ASEAN and partner countries’ officials were unanimous in many important issues such as preparations for a declaration of the ASEAN and Chinese leaders on production capacity cooperation, for the signing of a legal document on the negotiation outcomes on services and trade within the ASEAN – Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement, and for the review of the agreement on setting up an ASEAN – Australia – New Zealand free trade area.

They agreed to step up overhauling the ASEAN – India Trade in Goods Agreement to facilitate the bloc’s export to India, promote talks on the RCEP and the ASEAN – Hong Kong free trade agreement, and organise annual policy dialogues with Canada.

On the basis of the ASEAN – US Special Leaders’ Summit last February and the Commemorative Summit marking the 20th anniversary of the ASEAN – Russia dialogue partnership, the officials of ASEAN and the two partner nations agreed to implement initiatives to strengthen their connectivity such as establishing the US – ASEAN connection centres in Singapore, Bangkok (Thailand) and Jakarta (Indonesia), setting up ASEAN – US cooperation principles on international investment, transparency and good management, and considering the foundation of the ASEAN – Russia economic partnership on connectivity.

One of Vietnam’s important targets within ASEAN is to bolster the narrowing of the development gap in the region, especially helping the CLMV countries to develop their economies sustainably and make the best use of economic integration’s benefits.

At the AEM-48 and related events, Vietnam and Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar agreed on a CLMV action plan for 2017 – 2018.

Vietnam supported Laos, which is the ASEAN Chair this year, in creating consensus in ASEAN on integration frameworks within the bloc and stronger cooperation with partner nations to enhance ASEAN’s central role. It is currently one of the ASEAN countries well performing trade facilitation initiatives to reduce costs and improve Vietnamese businesses’ competitiveness.

At the AEM-48 and related events, Vietnam continued fostering initiatives on cooperation among the CLMV countries, and between the Greater Mekong Sub-region nations and Japan to promote economic connectivity.

Minister Tran Tuan Anh told Vietnam News Agency that all of the meetings in Vientiane helped the country and other ASEAN members to fine-tune institutions and cooperation frameworks within ASEAN, and between the grouping and partners like the Northeast Asian nations, Australia, New Zealand, India and the US.

The reaching of numerous agreements and cooperation frameworks at the events is a foundation for the ASEAN members to turn their agreements on the AEC building into reality, he added.-VNA