ASEAN economic ministers pose for a picture at the 24th AEM Retreat (Photo: VNA)

Singapore (VNA) – Economic chiefs of the 10 ASEAN countries gathered in Singapore on March 1 for the 24th ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Retreat (AEM Retreat).

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

Opening the event, Singapore's Minister for Trade and Industry Lim Hng Kiang said that the retreat is a chance for the ministers to discuss matters related to the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), including the implementation of the AEC Blueprint 2025 in deepening economic integration.

He held that the recovering world economy will facilitate exports and growth of the member countries.

The Singaporean minister said that ASEAN, as a well-connected region, is poised to benefit from the rise in investment, manufacturing activities and trade. This has helped the association to lure enterprises from all over the world and grasp new opportunities.

He stressed that the promotion of AEC construction will benefit the whole region, calling for the member countries to continue pursuing the economic facilitation and integration, thus everyone can benefit from the community.

As the ASEAN Chair in 2018, Singapore pledged to work with other member countries to build a “self-reliant and innovative” ASEAN with solidarity to overcome challenges and head to the future.

According to Lim, Singapore's economic objectives for 2018 are to deepen regional connectivity to position ASEAN as the region for increasingly seamless economic activity and growing opportunities.

The minister said innovation and the digital economy are key areas that Singapore intends to pursue under its chairmanship. The country aims to promote innovation, build up digital connectivity, and facilitate e-commerce flows.

Digital economy’s potential growth may reach 200 billion USD, while e-commerce may hit about 88 billion USD in 2025.

Within the two-day retreat’s framework, the 16th AEM-European Union Trade Commissioner Consultations will be held on March 2 to speed up negotiations for a free trade deal between the two sides.

ASEAN, or the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.-VNA