​Illustrative image (Source: thediplomat.com)
Jakarta (VNA) – ASEAN will focus on food and agriculture, trade facilitation, development of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMES), education, health and social welfares, to narrow development gaps in the bloc.

This is the main outcome of the 48 th meeting of the Initiative for ASEAN Integration Task Force (IAI), which took place in Jakarta, Indonesia, on April 4.

The development gap in per capita income, education, healthcare, institutional framework and capacity, infrastructure, and information access has long been a major issue; especially between ASEAN-6 (Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand) and CLMV (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

This has been affecting intra-bloc cooperation efficiency and connectivity.

Based on the IAI, which was approved at the ASEAN Summit in 2000, the association built and implemented work plans on narrowing development gaps between 2002-2008 and again between 2009-2015, with the aim of supporting and enhancing capacity of the CLMV countries to fulfill commitments and obligations regarding regional integration and the ASEAN Community.

Since 2009, the association has carried out 360 projects with a total budget of 47.8 million USD, including a number of professional and language training programmes to improve CLMV countries’ capability in regional integration.

Participants agreed to focus on the remaining measures and activities outlined in the second phase of the IAI Work Plan and step up the building of the post-2015 plan to submit to the ASEAN Summit this September in Laos.

Addressing the event, Ambassador Nguyen Hoanh Nam, Head of the Vietnamese Permanent Representative Delegation to ASEAN, proposed ASEAN and its partners continue giving priority to narrowing development gaps in the long run and provide practical assistance to help CLMV integrate in the region and fully benefit from the ASEAN Community.

The IAI Task Force is responsible for building, coordinating and monitoring the progress of implementing the IAI Work Plan.-VNA