Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. (Source: VNA)

Kuala Lumpur (VNA) – Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has called on ASEAN member states to adopt a business model that enables each to share a selected industry with other members and secure a bigger market.

Delivering a keynote address to the Malaysia-Philippines business forum in the latter’s capital of Manila on March 7, the PM said ASEAN countries should learn from China’s success story, which has transformed the country in less than 40 years to become the second biggest economy in the world.

He said a divided large population is not helpful. Despite Southeast Asia being home to more than 600 million people, the region’s countries are still looking at themselves as separate nations with different domestic markets, which is limiting their capacity to grow.

The PM recalled that at the start of the ASEAN formation, there was an idea for the member countries to divide the main industries among themselves so that each industry could be focused in one country, but with a much bigger market covering all five member countries at the time.

It was a good idea that did not take off, he noted, adding that a good idea can be revisited and the concept restudied to exploit the huge market of 600 million people.

Mahathir, who is currently on an official visit to the Philippines, said that ASEAN members coming together as effective trading partners would allow them to tap into the huge market and emerge as a powerful economic unit. –VNA