ASEAN Trade Ministers to Meet in Manila
- From: "Chim" <ChimS1@xxxxxxx>
- Date: 14 May 2006 06:44:04 -0700
ASEAN Trade Ministers to Meet in Manila
By EILEEN NG
MANILA, Philippines (AP) - Southeast Asian trade ministers, pressured
by China and India's growing economic might, will gather this week in
Manila to chart plans to accelerate their daunting ambition of creating
a European-style economic community.
During their two-day working retreat starting on Monday, ministers of
the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, will
explore ways to push forward the integration of their economies into a
single market and production base to 2015, instead of 2020, officials
They will assess progress of ASEAN's various free trade negotiations
and are to meet South Korean Trade Minister Kim Hyun-chong and European
Union trade chief Peter Mandelson on Tuesday.
The proposal to accelerate the formation of an ASEAN Economic Community
was made by the bloc's leaders at their summit in December as they
sought to boost the 39-year-old grouping's economic clout amid concerns
it may be dwarfed by rising giants China and India as momentum for East
Asian integration gathers steam.
"The ministers will see how the process can be shortened. 2020 is too
far away for any substantial economic benefit for ASEAN at this time,"
ASEAN secretary-general Ong Keng Yong, who is attending the meeting,
told The Associated Press.
Speeding up regional integration takes on a renewed urgency as the
grouping struggles to remain in the driver's seat of the East Asia
Summit, which was launched in Malaysia in December comprising ASEAN 10
members, Australia, China, Korea, India, Japan, and New Zealand, he
Japan has already called for negotiations to begin in 2008 among the 16
nations to create an East Asian free trade area, comprising half the
world's population and a combined economy of $8.3 trillion, although
the goal is elusive because of the region's many rivalries.
"To be in the driver's seat, ASEAN must be competitive and have certain
leverages, otherwise focus will be more on China and India. The only
way is to have an integrated ASEAN economy," Ong said.
The bloc has been working on an ASEAN Free Trade Area for a decade but
in reality, the countries remain a chain of disparate markets. A wide
economic chasm divides ASEAN, which comprises more advanced nations
Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia and Brunei
and newer members Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia.
Cumbersome border formalities, barriers to the flow of goods and
services, and restrictive business practices hinder growth in ASEAN,
which has a market of 530 million people but accounts for only 6
percent of world exports, officials said.
Ong admitted progress in liberalizing trade in services and harmonizing
custom procedures in the region was sluggish.
"It is taking longer than expected because there are a lot of
technicalities to iron out. We will discuss all these and see how we
can make progress," he said.
ASEAN trade ministers were originally due to gather in the palm-fringed
resort island of Boracay, about 190 miles southeast of Manila, but bad
weather caused by tropical storm Chanchu, which has left at least 32
people dead and disrupted flights in the Philippines, forced officials
to shift the meeting to the capital.
Ong said a proposed ASEAN agreement with South Korea to liberalize
trade in goods - which is part of an overall free trade pact signed in
December - remained in a flux as negotiations were stalled by
Thailand's political crisis. ASEAN ministers will discuss ways to
overcome this hurdle with Kim on Tuesday, he said.
World top rice exporter Thailand refused to sign the goods agreement in
December after Seoul, which has an often-militant farm lobby at home,
insisted on excluding rice from the accord. Thai officials said the
current government has no mandate to make decisions after April 2 snap
polls were annulled.
Ong said a proposed free ASEAN-EU trade pact would dominate the
minister's talks with Mandelson. Officials from the two groups have
held three rounds of talks but he said ASEAN wanted a deeper commitment
from the EU, which has been more focused on world trade talks.
"It is a formidable task but we want to do it. EU is ASEAN's second
largest trading partner and we want to prepare for the future with
multifaceted trading activities so we are not just focused on China and
India," he added.
Mandelson has said he would seek to push stalled world trade talks
forward when he meets ASEAN ministers.
- Prev by Date: No oil and lots of holidays, Cambodia manages to push for higher economic productivity
- Next by Date: HM King Norodom Sihamoni speaks English, French, Russian, Czech besides his native Khmer language
- Previous by thread: No oil and lots of holidays, Cambodia manages to push for higher economic productivity
- Next by thread: HM King Norodom Sihamoni speaks English, French, Russian, Czech besides his native Khmer language