ASEAN ministers gather in Myanmar for economic talks

Monday, 02 February 2015

ASEAN Secretary-General Le Luong Minh (1st right) and ASEAN economic ministers pose for a group photo during the opening ceremony of the 46th ASEAN Economic Ministers' Meeting and related meetings in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar yesterday. 

Speaking at the opening session, Myanmar President Thein Sein called on ASEAN to implement the remaining measures to realise an ASEAN Economic Community that is to launch next year.

"As the realisation of AEC by 2015 is fast approaching, I would like to encourage the ASEAN member states to make utmost efforts to implement the remaining measures in a timely manner and the AEC Blueprint be implemented expeditiously," he said.

"We should pay more attention to increase the awareness and involvement of the people and businessmen in the region on the ASEAN Economic Community. We also take note of the support rendered by the dialogue partners for the realisation of AEC," Thein Sein added.

So far, 82.1 per cent has been completed on the implementation of ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint, according to ASEAN sources.

According to the official agenda yesterday, the ministerial discussions would include issuance of an ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement for the lesser-developed members of ASEAN – Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Viet Nam, tariff liberalization, elimination of non tariff barriers, ASEAN trade facilitation, development in customer integration, the AEC Blueprint and Scorecard and sectoral developments.

Myanmar National Planning Minister Kan Zaw, in his opening remarks, said the development gap among ASEAN countries is "still a great threat" to sustainability to already achieved socioeconomic development of the block that recently marked its 47th anniversary of its founding earlier this month.

The situation calls for further strengthening of unity among the member states to jointly address and fulfil narrowing the gap and to promote the role of small and medium enterprises, he said.

On Wednesday, the ministers will hold their second meeting of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, one of the world's largest free trade blocs that comprises the 10 ASEAN members, China, South Korea, Japan, India, Australia and New Zealand.

At the RCEP meeting, the ministers plan to discuss the progress of negotiations on a wider regional agreement involving ASEAN and its free trade agreement partners.

ASEAN consists of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.