The volatile global economic situation only underscores the need to complete the integration of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to ensure the region’s continued and equitable economic growth.
This was the conclusion reached by the ASEAN economic ministers at the 43rd AEM Meeting and Related Meetings convened on August 9 to 14, 2011 in Manado, Indonesia, according to Gusmardi Bustami, chair of the Senior Economic Officials Meeting.
The economic ministers believe that the ASEAN Economic Community must stay on course for 2015, more so in light of the uncertainties in the global economy, said Gusmardi, who spoke at a recent briefing before the diplomatic community in Jakarta, Indonesia.
He also noted the importance of making sure that the SMEs benefit from the economic integration. This, he said, “is about getting more and more of our stakeholders taking part in the region’s economic activities and expanding the benefits of our work to the whole spectrum of businesses.”
S. Pushpanathan, deputy secretary-general of ASEAN for ASEAN Economic Community, said the region has matured, as both export and domestic demand pushed growth upward by 7.5 percent last year. “Intra-ASEAN trade and investment flows have shown an upward momentum and are likely to support its 2011 domestic growth, which is estimated between 5.7 and 6.4 percent,” he said.
ASEAN has remained an attractive foreign direct investment (FDI) destination, he added. FDI into ASEAN reached US$75.8 billion last year, doubling the 2009 level and surpassing the pre-global crisis peak in 2007 of $75.7 billion. FDI flows into ASEAN over the last decade grew at an annual average rate of 19 percent.
The week-long economic meetings in Manado, Indonesia included the annual meetings of the 25th ASEAN Free Trade Area Council and the 14th ASEAN Investment Area Council; the 43rd AEM meetings; and consultations with economic counterparts from eight of ASEAN’s 10 dialogue partners—Australia, New Zealand, China, India, Japan, Korea, Russia, and the United States.
The ministers also held collective discussions with the Plus Three countries ofChina,Japan, andKorea, and with the East Asia Summit (EAS) participants.
The 13th ASEAN Mekong Basin Development Cooperation, the 3rd Mekong-Japan Economic Ministers Meeting, and the 3rd CLMV Economic Ministers Meeting were also held to discuss greater cooperation in ASEAN and sub-regions.
In addition, the inaugural ASEAN Trade Facilitation Forum was held at the sidelines, in which the business sector dialogued with the economic ministers on ways to facilitate trade in ASEAN.
Photo by Aidan Jones