The 17th ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Meeting (AEM) Retreat wrapped up in Vientiane on Feb. 27 after two days of sitting focusing on promoting regional economic integration.

Minister of Industry and Trade Vu Huy Hoang led the Vietnamese delegation to the meeting.

The meeting aimed to work out cooperation plan for the whole year and some strategic orientations on economic integration for the bloc in coming years.

The officials agreed the positive results in the implementation of the roadmap for the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) with 83.2 percent of the workload completed in 2008-2009. Vietnam was one of the three best performing member with a completion rate of 94.2 percent.

However, the officials shared the view that ASEAN is facing challenges due to a lack of legal regulations for many regional integration commitments and lower than expected harmonisation of policies among ASEAN members. Especially, in the 2010-2011 period of the 104 measures to be completed in the AEC roadmap, 60 percent of them have been left to be done in 2011.

The ministers paid special attentions to boosting exchange with the business community to create favourable conditions to maximise the benefits of AEC.

They affirmed to designate necessary resources to achieve the equal development goal through two major activities. A programme will be designed to help Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia to narrow the development gap with other ASEAN members in farm produce, investment, transport, trade facilitation and capacity in implementing FTAs commitments.

At the same time, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) will receive assistance to raise competitive capacity, thus strengthening their participation in regional integration.

Regarding the relationship with dialogue partners, the officials agreed that changes in regional linkage, especially the establishment of newly-emerged economic centres, have resulted in multi-faceted impacts on ASEAN’s position. In this context, ASEAN needs to work hard to implement internal regional integration targets timely, strengthen its central role in relations with partners and get ready with strategic steps to steer ASEAN towards higher levels of integration in coming years.

The meeting also agreed many measures to continue boosting cooperation and partnership with partners, including China, India, Japan, the EU and Russia.

The Vietnamese delegation made active contributions to discussions at the meeting.

The meeting’s results will be reported to the 18 th ASEAN Summit to be held in Indonesia in May./.