2015 launch achievable, but challenges remain, says Asean sec-gen

With a positive outlook for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in 2013, the establishment of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) in 2015 can be achieved, but some “key challenges” remain, the Manila Times quoted Aseean secretary-general Le Luong Minh as saying.

 

He said despite risks caused by global financial crisis and other challenges including weak external demand, rising food and energy prices and growing global economic imbalances, the 2013 outlook for Asean remains broadly positive.

According to Minh, the Asean is projected to grow by at least 5.3 percent this year, with strong domestic demand to continue to support that growth. And with the global trade for goods expected to grow by 3.6 percent this year, Asean trade rate is also expected to grow by 3.6 percent.

These numbers make Asean viable for global, regional and local investments and prove that the region is inching its way closer to integration. He said that while the current global uncertainty will cause the regional growth to be modest, economic activity in the region will remain robust.

But Minh also said that achieving that vision is very challenging due to a number of concerns, including the implementation of regional commitments by the member states and the development gaps between them. He said that the implementation of measures to narrow these gaps is being hampered by constraints in resources.

“There has been considerable difficulty in transporting regional commitments, both intra-Asean and extra-Asean commitments, into domestic laws and regulations due to lack of capacity and financial resources. Without full implementation of the regional commitments at the national level, regional economic integration cannot progress,” he said.

Another concern is the dissemination of information on the region’s integration efforts. Minh cited a 2012 survey on Asean Community Building, which was conducted in the 10 capital cities in Asean. 76 percent of respondents said they don’t know what the Asean community is, 55 percent of businessmen surveyed said they know at least the basics, while 30 percent showed a lack of basic understanding.

Minh said that this lack of awareness and understanding of what the AEC is, in addition to the development gaps between the member states and poor implementation of regional commitments, is something that must be addresses as soon as possible.