ASEAN economic ministers and deputy ministers at the 48th ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Meeting  in Laos (Source: VNA)
Vientiane (VNA) – Economic ministers and deputy ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) mulled several important matters during the 48th ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Meeting that began in Vientiane, Laos on August 3.

They discussed recent global developments and their impacts on economic activities and integration in the region.

The ten-member group has gained significant achievements while realising regional integration goals, they said.

Highlighting the significance of 2016 – the first year since the birth of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), delegates underscored the need to intensify the bloc’s commitments to deeper integration in accordance with the AEC Blueprint 2015.

They also expressed their concern over the gloomy global economic outlook which has created challenges for the region.

Noting with pleasure the group’s total trade turnover at 2.28 trillion USD in 2015, the participants said foreign direct investment (FDI) poured into the region hit 120 billion USD while intra-ASEAN FDI remained stable at 22.1 billion USD.

The figures show the positive impact of regional economic integration, they said.

However, the ministers and deputy ministers pointed to challenges facing the regional economy such as China’s economic slowdown and uncertainties following Brexit.

Against this background, they affirmed ASEAN’s commitment to continued integration and building of regional strength, geared towards a dynamic and sustainable economic community.

Mentioning the AEC Blueprint 2025, the delegates reiterated their commitment to materialising the roadmap and hoped that it will speed up regional integration.

They congratulated Laos as rotating Chair of ASEAN in 2016 on its successful leadership and introduction of priorities for the bloc, saying such priorities will help accelerate the group’s economic integration.

The meeting passed a handful of frameworks covering trade facilitation, food safety management and institutions concerning financial access of small- and medium-sized enterprises, and a programme on startups in ASEAN.

The ministers also hailed the ASEAN tourism ministers’ ratification of the Pakse Declaration on the Roadmap for Strategic Development of Ecotourism Clusters and Tourism Corridors.

The delegates affirmed their commitment to narrowing development gaps through plans of action adopted at meetings with senior economic officials from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam and the Initiative for ASEAN Integration.

At the meeting, the ministers also looked into free trade agreements between ASEAN and its dialogue partners and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership negotiations.

There will be consultations between ASEAN economic ministers and representatives from ASEAN’s partner countries on August 4.-VNA