Asean ministers note progress on AEC
Azlan Othman

The 9th meeting of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) Council convened yesterday with Asean Economic Community Council Ministers noting progress in the implementation of the Asean Economic Community Blueprint, with 77.5 per cent of the measures under the AEC blueprint already implemented.

Recalling Asean leaders’ decision last year to double efforts in realising the AEC by 2015 by prioritising measures that have the greatest impact to the region, the ministers endorsed the prioritised AEC deliverables for 2013 and 2015. Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade II, Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Dewa Dato Seri Setia Lim Jock Seng (C) at the AEC meeting.

The meeting, held yesterday at the International Convention Centre in Berakas, was chaired by Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade II of Brunei Darussalam Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Dewa Dato Seri Setia Lim Jock Seng.

On cross sectoral cooperation, the ministers took note of the progress and discussed ways to address some of the challenges faced in the implementation of the AEC measures under the various sectoral ministerial bodies. The ministers reaffirmed the importance of strengthening collaboration and coordination across the sectors, and with all stakeholders, at the national and regional levels.

The ministers noted the progress of commitments being made under the various service sectors, including those under air transport and financial services, and took stock of ongoing efforts to further enhance the Asean Framework Agreement on Services (AFAS).

In this regard, following the signing of the Asean agreement on the Movement of Natural Persons (MNP) on the sideline of the 21st Asean Summit in November last year, the ministers at their meeting endorsed the schedules of commitments of all Asean member states for the MNP agreement, which is expected to facilitate the movement of investors, business people and skilled labour among Asean member states.

The ministers also reviewed initiatives under the Asean Framework agreement on Equitable Economic Development (AFEED) and welcomed the emphasis placed on the development of SMEs in the region.

Additionally, they took note of the developments in the Asean framework for Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations that were launched in November 2012, particularly the substantial preparatory work undertaken by officials, and look forward to the commencement of the RCEP negotiations, which could potentially create one of the largest free trade area in the world.

The ministers also noted the ongoing efforts by the Asean Connectivity Coordinating Committee (ACCC) to strengthen and monitor the implementation of the Master Plan on Asean Connectivity (MPAC) in the areas of physical connectivity, institutional connectivity and people to people connectivity.

Also noted was the proposed convening of the 4th Asean Connectivity Symposium, scheduled to be held in Brunei later this year. The symposium would focus on engaging the private sector and exploring the potential of public private partnership towards the implementation of the MPAC.

Meanwhile, Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs, M Hatta Rajasa told the media that disparity from member countries, people and infrastructure connectivity, were among the challenges faced in achieving the Asean Economic Community by 2015.

Asked on how Brunei could play a significant role, he said the Sultanate could boost connectivity and initiatives under the Asean Framework agreement on Equitable Economic Development (AFEED) and to forge the Asean states to develop the financial institutions and infrastructures. - Borneo Bulletin (11 April 2013)