BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN: Malaysia is on track to embrace the
Asean Economic Community (AEC) in 2015, having implemented 88 per cent of the measures and achievement of milestones committed in the AEC Strategic Schedule.
According to Malaysian officials, out of the 331 AEC measures, 261 measures had been implemented as of the end of July 2013.
"There are challenges in realising the AEC, but we are confident of achieving this. Besides trade facilitation, Asean is giving priority to complete the liberalisation of the services sector," an official said on the sidelines of the 23rd Asean Summit.
The main purpose of the AEC is to promote economic development towards uplifting the well-being of the people in the region and narrowing the development gap.
Regional integration pursued by the 10-member grouping also covers enhancing cooperation and facilitation in other economic sectors such as transport, telecommunications, agriculture, forestry, tourism, healthcare, mining, energy, customs, standards and conformance, intellectual property rights, competition policy and enhancing Asean connectivity.
The official said while Asean was working hard to achieve the AEC within the next 14 months, the grouping should also look to the future, adding that the leaders were expected to adopt the Asean Community's Post-2015 Vision that was initiated by Malaysia.
On the Asean and India free trade agreement (FTA) on Services and
Investment, he said it would not be signed during the Asean-India summit here although the negotiations had been concluded.
"No date has been fixed to sign the FTA, although the tentative date is December 2013, and for it to enter into force on July 1, 2014. The countries concerned need to approve it first," he said.
Besides the FTA with India, Asean is also pushing for several other FTAs, including one with Hong Kong SAR (Special Administrative Region) whereby negotiations will commence in 2014.
Work is also on-going to review the Asean's FTA with South Korea and China, with steps being taken to consider acceleration of tariff reduction and elimination on products placed in the sensitive tracks under both these FTAs.
The official also said the deepening of economic integration across all economic sectors had contributed positively to Asean's growth, citing the 5.7 per cent gross domestic product growth in 2012, which is above the global average, and retaining its position as among the fastest growing regions.-- Bernama