Asean region on track for 2015 integrationBy Amy R. Remo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The 10 member states of Asean are on track to completing the measures needed for the integration of their economies by 2015, according to the 2012-2013 annual report released by the regional economic and political bloc.
In his annual report message, Asean secretary general Le Luong Minh noted that in the economic pillar, Asean has already implemented nearly 80 percent of the measures in the Asean Economic Community (AEC) Blueprint, with significant progress across sectors, as of March 2013.
“A Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, of which negotiations have started among member states of Asean and its six FTA (free trade agreement) partners namely Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea and New Zealand—and expected to conclude by 2015, will further cement Asean’s central role as an emerging hub of economic integration in the Asia-Pacific,” Minh explained.
By 2015, Asean envisions an “Asean Economic Community” which will be defined as having a single market and distribution base, a highly competitive economic region with equitable economic development, and a region fully integrated into the global economy.
Last year, Asean grew by 5.6 percent, up from 4.7 percent in 2011, due largely to strong domestic demand. According to the report, the “Asean Comprehensive Investment Agreement is now fully enforced and the landmark Asean Agreement on Movement of Natural Persons (MNP) has been signed. The pilot implementation of the Asean Single Window, which is expected to contribute to improved trade facilitation in the region, is well underway while in transport facilitation, progress on the ratification of agreements is being made.”
On the political-security pillar, Minh noted that the adoption of the Asean Human Rights Declaration in 2012 was an important milestone in Asean’s mission to promote and protect human rights.
“As a key player in the maintenance of regional peace and stability through promoting dialogue and peaceful resolution of disputes and conflicts, Asean is intensifying efforts to ensure full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and work towards the early conclusion of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea,” Minh said in his message.
Minh further pointed out the significant progress made on the socio-cultural community pillar, which is essential for building a people-centered Asean.
He explained that as Asean is striving to build a caring society, for the first time, an Asean stockpile of relief items was drawn up following recent natural disasters in the region, demonstrating the value of the Asean Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance (AHA Centre).
“As the clock ticks towards the Asean Community 2015, much of our efforts for the period under review has been focused on implementing regional commitments across all three pillars of the Asean community. Against this backdrop of significant achievements, Asean leaders, at their 22nd Asean Summit in April 2013, agreed to enhance efforts towards the realization of the Asean Community 2015 and also to start work on an Asean post-2015 vision,” Minh said in the annual report.