The 43 rd ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Meeting (AEM 43) and Related Meetings opened in the North Sulawesi provincial capital city of Manado, Indonesia on August 10.

Addressing the opening ceremony, Indonesian Vice President Boedino said that this year AEM aimed to make preparations for the East Asian Summit, as well as promote ASEAN development, cooperation and economic integration towards the establishment of ASEAN Economic Community by 2015, one of three pillars of the ASEAN Community.

Mari Elka Pangestu, Indonesian Trade Minister and chairwoman of the meeting, said the five-day AEM 43 and a series of related meetings will focus on economic development issues and measures to narrow the economic development gap among regional countries, including support for small and medium-sized enterprises.

Additionally, the meeting will discuss inter-ASEAN economic cooperation, cooperation between regional organisations and dialogue partners, promoting efforts to establish the ASEAN Economic Community by 2015, ASEAN’s role in the East Asian region, and adopting trade agreements with China, Japan, the Republic of Korea (RoK), India, Australia and New Zealand.

The delegates will also discuss important trade and investment activities, consulting with dialogue partners under the ASEAN +1 mechanism, including the United States and Russia, and ASEAN +3, including China, the RoK and Japan.

The annual AEM was first held in 1975. The 42 nd AEM took place in the central city of Da Nang in August, 2010 when Vietnam undertook the role of ASEAN chair.

The 44 th AEM will be held in Cambodia, chair of ASEAN in 2012./.