SINGAPORE: Amid an increasingly uncertain global trade environment, it is important that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) press on with economic integration, said Singapore’s Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing on Monday (Nov 12).
This even as the grouping’s economic ministers have had a “successful year” marked by several “positive outcomes”, he said in a press release issued after the 17th ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Council Meeting in Singapore.
These outcomes include the signing of an e-commerce agreement – a first for the regional bloc of 10 Southeast Asian states – earlier in the day.
At the council meeting, economic ministers and delegates from Southeast Asia also concluded the ASEAN Trade in Services Agreement – an accord that will further integrate the region’s services markets – and finalised the fourth protocol to amend the ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement (ACIA).
The latter, aimed at helping ASEAN remain a competitive investment destination, will improve liberalisation and transparency in the investment regime of each member state.
Alongside other deliverables achieved over the year, these accords signify ASEAN’s “commitment to free and open trade”, and realising the AEC Blueprint 2025 vision, wrote the press release from Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry.
“These positive outcomes will position us for continued growth and allow all ASEAN member states to take advantage of the emerging opportunities in the digital economy. We are confident that the economic deliverables will bring about tangible benefits to our people and businesses,” said Mr Chan.
That said, ASEAN must soldier on with further integration to unlock its economic potential, and remain “resilient and future-ready”, he added.
The AEC Council Meeting is part of the 33rd ASEAN Summit and related meetings – the final milestone of Singapore’s chairmanship of ASEAN – that will be held at the Suntec Singapore Convention Centre this week.