The establishment of an ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015 will substantially enhance regional economic development, experts agreed at the annual Financial Times (FT) ASEAN Economic Summit held in Singapore on November 12.

The event brought together as many as 100 policy makers, economists, CEOs and financiers in the region to discuss the future development of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Addressing the function, Singaporean Minister of Trade and Industry Lim Hng Kiang said ASEAN is currently one of the most dynamic and fastest-growing regions in the world. From 2002-2012, ASEAN grew at an average of 6 percent, compared to the global average of 4 percent.

“ASEAN’s ability to fully realise its potential depends fundamentally on our efforts in regional integration,” he said adding that while most ASEAN countries are too small individually to be game changers in the global market, as an integrated region, they can benefit by leveraging their collective strength in responding to external challenges.

The minister noted that if the AEC vision was aspirational when it was first conceived, it is now an imperative, and has prompted an increased momentum in efforts to realise a truly integrated and competitive region.

He stated that in the coming time, ASEAN plans to continue with efforts to implement plans of actions of great impact, such as realising the customs single window and furthering service and investment liberalisation. At the same time, ASEAN will continue to explore ways to strengthen its economic engagement with Dialogue Partners.

According to the minister, the post-2015 vision for the AEC will not stop at enhancing current ASEAN platforms and initiatives, but will include newer areas and priorities, and one of the key objectives would be to allow ASEAN countries to move up the development ladder in an inclusive and sustainable manner, and to enhance ASEAN’s centrality in regional and global architectures.

According to Rintaro Tamaki, Deputy Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), ASEAN has shown strong progress in regional integration, such as to have brought down tariffs on goods to almost zero.

The AEC is scheduled to be established in late 2015 as one of the three pillars of the ASEAN Community. It will turn ASEAN into a single market and production base.-VNA