ASEAN economic ministers signed two amended protocols and adopted a number of important initiatives at their 19 th annual retreat in Hanoi on March 8, towards the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by 2015.
The protocols are to amend ASEAN Economic Agreements Related to Trade in Goods and the ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement.
|ASEAN Ministers of Economics (Source: VNA)|
During the two-hour event, participants specified orientations for economic cooperation in 2013 to realise the goal of building the AEC by 2015, and discussed initiatives on improving ASEAN competitiveness and connectivity with partners by building a business network and mechanisms to facilitate small-and medium-sized enterprises.
They also considered the roadmap for negotiating the Regional Comprehensive Economic Protocol (RCEP), which manifests ASEAN’s central and leading role in establishing a regional economic structure.
Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Nguyen Cam Tu said the RCEP negotiations are expected to start this year and conclude before 2016, creating the world’s largest free trade area that encompasses 50 percent of global population and 30 percent of global gross domestic product.
Nguyen Thi Hoang Thuy, Deputy Head of the Multilateral Trade Policy Department under the Ministry of Industry and Trade, said ASEAN needs to streamline trade, services, investment and transport to realise the AEC Blueprint.
Regarding customs procedures, ASEAN member nations devised a joint customs strategy for the 2011-2015 period and are striving to implement a one-door mechanism, making it easier for regional countries to transmit information via an electronic network.
The association has implemented self-certification for the origin of products on a pilot basis, including electricity, electronics, pharmaceuticals, farm produce and automobiles, gradually building a coordinated mechanism among the bloc in this field.
ASEAN nations worked out a joint management mechanism on cosmetics, electricity and electronics, and are building a similar system for medical equipment, traditional medicine and nutrition supplements.
An action plan for the 2011–2015 period was also drawn.
Aung Naing Oo, who is leading the Myanmar delegation, said due to great differences in economic development between the group of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam and the rest of ASEAN, the region must work together to bridge the development gap, which is a challenge in the establishment of the AEC by 2015