Tue, 16 Dec 2008
From: The Jakarta Globe
By Dian Bisara
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or Asean, is on track to create an Asean economic community, or AEC, by 2015 despite the delay of an association summit in Thailand that was scheduled for this week due to the political crisis there, Trade Minister Mari Pangestu said on Monday. He made the remarks while commenting on the Asean Charter, which took effect the same day.

To lay the groundwork for the community, Asean economic ministers are to sign three crucial agreements on Tuesday in Singapore which focus on trade, barriers to investment and the services sector. The agreement on trade will reduce, and in some cases eliminate, tariffs and revise existing rules on the origin of goods.

“These agreements represent the foundation stones on which the Asean Economic Community will be based,” Mari said.

The creation of the AEC is the end-goal of economic integration as outlined in the Asean Vision 2020 - the creation of a stable, prosperous and competitive Southeast Asia region through the free flow of goods, services, investment and capital, as well as equitable economic development and a reduction in poverty and socioeconomic disparities by 2020.

The plan was initiated in 2003 and revised in 2007 when group leaders agreed upon a blueprint to accelerate the creation of the community to 2015.

Meanwhile, a free-trade agreement between Asean and Australia and New Zealand has run up into legal complications. “There’s no problems about the substantive issues. In fact, the negotiations have already been concluded,” Mari said. “We will sign it during the Asean summit at the end of February.”

Separately, economist Pande Radja Silalahi urged the government to focus as only six years remained before the creation of the Asean single market. He also criticized the government for promoting the Asean community concept without having properly assessed its impact on domestic industry.

“We are always eager and at the forefront when talking about Asean integration, but become a bit more subdued when it comes to the details,” he said.



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