Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung (7th right) and heads of delegations of ASEAN countries at the 42nd ASEAN Economic Meeting in central Da Nang City. — VNA/VNS Photo Duc Tam
DA NANG — ASEAN economic ministers agreed on a variety of measures to boost trade and investment within the bloc and with outside partners, as they expressed confidence on regional economic prospects and headed to the establishment of an ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by 2015.
They reached agreements at the 42nd ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Meeting and the fourth ASEAN Economic Community Council Meeting, that both started in Da Nang yesterday.
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung opened the meeting, re-affirming the importance of a comprehensive, balanced and systematic approach in policy co-ordination at national and regional levels.
“This year is a pivotal year for the association in establishing the ASEAN Community, resting on the three pillars of political-security, economic and socio-cultural communities on which the economic community is making remarkable progress,” Dung said.
“A single market and production base has taken shape on the basis of highly harmonised domestic trade-related regulations and macro policy co-ordination among ASEAN member states,” he said.
He noted that member countries should pursue balanced and sustainable development policies and strike a balance between economic development targets, macro-economic stability and social development.
At the meeting, ministers forecast ASEAN’s real GDP growth to reach over 5 per cent this year, compared with only 1.5 per cent last year. The region was significantly helping drive global economic recovery, besides key economies such as China and India, they said.
Ministers noted that ASEAN’s total merchandise trade value remained resilient at about US$1.54 trillion last year, while trade surplus with the rest of the world reached $61.2 billion in 2009, doubling that of 2008.
They also affirmed that trade with its dialogue partners remained strong despite the global financial and economic crisis, especially with China, the European Union and Japan.
ASEAN’s share of total global foreign direct investment (FDI) inflow increased from 2.8 per cent in 2008 to 3.6 per cent in 2009, and ministers anticipated higher FDI into ASEAN from this year.
The EU tops the FDI into the region with a share of 18.3 per cent, followed by Japan with 13.4 per cent, and the US with 8.5 per cent. Intra-ASEAN investments are also significant, accounting for 11.2 per cent.
Ministers reaffirmed their resolve to ensure the timely and substantive implementation of measures in the AEC Blueprint to ensure the credibility and integrity of ASEAN economic integration, with the realisation of a single market and production base in 2015.
Ministers acknowledged important progress in such processes as tariff reduction and elimination, trade facilitation, the implementation of the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement and the ASEAN Single Window.
They committed to eliminate all forms of non-tariff barriers to maximise benefits from tariff reduction and further promote trade facilitation measures for a free flow of goods in the region.
They also agreed to boost investments through joint investment promotions and the engagement of the private sector in further consultations on improving ASEAN investment climate.
The Strategic Plan of Action for ASEAN SME Development over the next five years was endorsed at the meeting, as ministers underscored the importance of bringing small- and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) into the mainstream of the bloc’s economic integration.
Ministers agreed to continue to hold regular talks with industry associations and private sector representatives from ASEAN and dialogue partners; appreciated the implementation of trade and investment agreements with China, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand; and expected progress in economic co-operation with the East Asia region.
An important issue was that, they said, development gaps among ASEAN member nations should be narrowed.
“Development gaps remain a fundamental issue that we need to correct,” ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan told reporters on the sideline of the meeting. “A house divided by such gaps is not stable.”
“That’s a concern for all of us (ASEAN nations) and it has come up quite often at the highest levels how to bridge these gaps,” he said, adding that ASEAN’s dialogue partners would play significant roles in helping to solve the problem.
On the same day, PM Dung received Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Masayuki Naoshima in Ha Noi on his working visit to Viet Nam.
The Prime Minister welcomed Naoshima and his delegation to the ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Meeting in Viet Nam, expressing his pleasure at the positive development of co-operative ties in economy, trade and investment between the two countries, despite the global economic downturn.
Naoshima said that as a strategic partner with technical experience in the construction of nuclear power plants, Japan wished to co-operate with Viet Nam in this field in the future.
Dung spoke highly of the safety of Japanese technology in this field and said he wished the two countries would soon discuss the signing of an agreement to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
Naoshima said Japan would consider putting forward the second session of the Viet Nam-Japan Dialogue Forum on market economy, supporting Viet Nam in the area of animal quarantine, providing official development assistance for the building of infrastructure and helping Viet Nam to maximise energy efficiently.
On the same day, the Japanese minister was received by Politburo member Truong Tan Sang who is also the permanent member of the Secretariat of the Party Central Committee.
Sang confirmed Viet Nam’s consistent policy of developing co-operative ties with Japan, adding the country would consider co-operation with Japan in nuclear energy. — VNS
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