ASEAN to speed up economic integration

Manila, November 26:

Southeast Asian leaders are to advance to 2015 the target date for integrating the region’s vast economies into a single European Union-style market, a draft declaration states.

The declaration is expected to be signed by Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders when they meet for an annual summit next month in the central Philippine resort island of Mactan.

ASEAN countries — Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam — plan to create a single community hinged on a ‘closely integrated, dynamic and vibrant regional economy.’ Leaders will reaffirm a ‘strong determination to undertake concrete measures for the acceleration of the implementation of all programme areas, measures and principles’ in the envisioned ASEAN market.

They will also declare ‘a strong commitment towards accelerating the achievement of an ASEAN Community to 2015,’ the draft said.

ASEAN, a market of 500 million people, aims to abolish tariffs by 2015 under a regional free-trade agreement. ASEAN is also negotiating separately for free-trade agreements (FTAs) with China, Japan and South Korea, hoping this will become a catalyst for a wider East Asian free trade zone, potentially the biggest in the world.