MANADO, Indonesia (Xinhua) – The Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) is starting to think beyond 2015 after completing the ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint, regarding several factors to spur growth in the region, a high-ranking official at the ASEAN Secretariat told Xinhua in an exclusive interview on the side lines of ASEAN Ministers Meeting in North Sulawesi provincial capital city of Manado.
“One of the key ideas of Indonesia’s chair of ASEAN this year is how ASEAN needs to start to see beyond 2015 also. We need to work on what we have to do beyond 2015 as we are approaching the year,” said Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN for ASEAN Economic Community Sundram Pushpanathan.
He said that the ASEAN Ministers Meeting has covered all aspects of integration, not just economy, beyond 2015.
“But from the economic side, I think it’s important to look at several dimensions,” he said.
One, he said, is equitable economic development. “ASEAN integration must benefit for every segment of the bloc, not just some of the key countries, but every body in ASEAN. How do we go forth? That’s one of our concerns,” he said.
Second, Puspanathan said, is how ASEAN enhances its trade, investment and other functions of economic activities.
“We need trade facilitations and investment facilitation as well as small medium enterprise (SME) development,” he said.
According to Puspanathan, 96 percent of all industry in ASEAN is SME.He said that ASEAN needs to enhance its thought, so that countries do not just focus on themselves in terms of growth
“They have to look across the borders and trade across the borders. SME becomes important as the growth part of ASEAN. SME development is another aspect of integration,” he said.
Another thing that should be paid attention is food and energy security issue.
“Because ASEAN is growing, we need more and more energy. So, how we manage the energy situation? (We need to) create ASEAN integrated energy market, looking at building gas pipeline across ASEAN countries and electricity grid across ASEAN countries,” he said.
He added that food security is another important aspect because population is growing to 600 million now.
“How do we feed the population? How do we share? We are both biggest exporter of food and in the same time, country like the Philippines is the biggest rice importer. How do we benefit from having a good and efficient food security system within ASEAN,” he said. Pushpanathan also stressed the ASEAN countries needs to pay high attention to environmental protecion.
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