The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) needs to focus on collaboration and communication to achieve its goal achieving economic integration and increased opportunities and benefits for citizens, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said on Friday.
“The region has to focus on two Cs. By engaging multi-stakeholders, Asean develops a win-win solution in ensuring that economic opportunities will be equitably felt by all Asean citizens,” the Trade department quoted Lopez as saying during the Asean@50 Conference in Kuala Lumpur.
Asean, which comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, has seen its economy grow since the bloc was formed in 1967.
Total trade was said to have increased by $700 billion between 2007 and 2015, with intra-Asean shipments accounting for the largest share. The bloc was also noted to have $121 billion in foreign direct investments, again flows between neighbors constituting the bulk.
“Our communication must be sustained and intensified if we want to reap the benefits of the Asean Economic Community (AEC), working toward a deeper regional integration in 2025,” Lopez said.
“Asean’s continuing economic transformation remains an example of how regional integration and cooperation is plausible despite challenges and diversity in size, geography, political background, and culture,” he added.
Lopez said promoting complementation and cooperation was at the heart of Asean integration efforts. He added that closer trade and enhanced economic cooperation, combined with continued engagement with dialogue partners, would bolster the region’s growth and promote complementation of domestic reforms.
“We have engaged our major trading partners namely Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea, and New Zealand in free trade agreements, negotiating as a single Asean entity rather than as individual economies discussing bilateral trade arrangements,” Lopez noted.
Asean wants to conclude the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which aims to expand the current Asean market with the inclusion of six dialogue partners China, Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and India.
The Trade department said Lopez also took the opportunity to present the Philippine agenda as the current Asean chair. The Philippines, it said, will push for the development and internationalization of micro, small and medium enterprises.
“Asean continues to develop into a pivotal marketplace with its relatively young, growing labor force and emerging middle class,” Lopez said.