The ASEAN Senior Economic Officials’ Meeting (SEOM) convened in Hanoi on October 27 to review and discuss a range of important documents to speed up the building of the ASEAN Economic Community by 2015.

All of these documents will be submitted to the Meeting of the ASEAN Economic Community Council scheduled to take place in Hanoi on October 28.

SEOM debated the Protocol to Provide Special Consideration for Rice and Sugar and the Protocol to Implement the Eighth Package of Commitments under the ASEAN Framework Agreement on Services in order to strengthen cooperation within the bloc.

Le Quang Lan, Deputy Director of the Multilateral Trade Policy Department under the Vietnamese Ministry of Industry and Trade, said the eighth package covers a broad scope of commitments on 80 out of the total 150 service sub-sectors. The protocol was designed to encourage the flow of investment in services among the regional countries, he said.

With this package of commitments, ASEAN is striving to create a more open framework compared with what the bloc was performing in pursuant to the regulations of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Lan added.

At the meeting, delegates showed optimism about the successful building of the ASEAN Economic Community by 2015 and put forward recommendations to the governments of the ASEAN nations to implement the Community roadmap.

Srirat Sartapana, Director of the Trade Negotiations Department under the Thai Ministry of Commerce, said the target is achievable by 2015, but ASEAN members must work together closely to separately address each of the issues.

The governments need to work out reasonable policies to overcome trade barriers and expand economic cooperation with regional nations, the official said.

Meanwhile, the Assistant to the Philippines Secretary of Trade and Industry, Vicente Ramon, urged economic ministers to have a stronger voice and asked for inter-sector coordination to step up regional cooperation not only in the economy but also in social aspects.

Also on Oct. 27, SEOM finalised documents on the granting of certificate of origin to goods from ASEAN and China , in a move to facilitate bilateral trade./.