ASEAN moves closer to economic integration
CEBU CITY (28 November) -- The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will move closer to integrating their economies under an ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) similar to the European Community when the ASEAN leaders meet in Cebu City for their 12th Summit on Dec. 10-14.
With the theme "One Caring and Sharing Community," the 12th ASEAN Summit is expected to serve as venue for the leaders to discuss and agree on initiatives that will speed up ASEAN's economic integration in an increasingly competitive global market.
This is in line with the vision of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for a new, more modern Philippines and to eliminate poverty and improve the quality of life of every Filipino, according to organizers of the 12th ASEAN Summit.
Opening the ASEAN market of 570 million people would bring about new business opportunities and market access that would boost employment opportunities for Filipinos, said Ramon Vicente T. Kabigting, director of the Bureau of International Trade Relations of the Department of Trade and Industry.
"The upcoming leadership summits in Cebu are a direct reflection of the benefits of the President's engagement and the honor and prestige she is bringing to the people of the Philippines" through the attendance of world leaders in the 12th ASEAN Summit, Kabigting said.
The Cebu Declaration on the Acceleration of the ASEAN Community by the year 2015 is one of the 21 draft documents that are up for consideration during the four-day summit.
The ASEAN leaders have targeted 11 key sectors that are to be given priority in the process of developing the AEC by year 2015. These sectors include agro-based products, air travel and air transport, automatic products, software, electronics, fisheries, healthcare, rubber-based products, textile and apparel, tourism and wood-based products.
More than 400 business leaders are expected to attend the ASEAN business summit here to provide the business sector's input into the dialogue and the recommendations to leaders on the path to AEC. As the global economic environment is changing rapidly, there is a vital need to rush the realization of the AEC by advancing the timetable to the year 2015.
The AEC is a seamless market single production base. It is envisioned to be a region characterized by free trade – free from tariffs and free from non-tariffs barriers, supported by trade facilitation measures such as streamlined customs procedure, mutual recognition of the quality of one another's products and services, and free movement of natural persons.
Under the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (AFTA), the bulk of tariff elimination will be done by the original ASEAN members in 2010 and the new ASEAN members in 2015. (PIA) [top]