KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 13 (Bernama) — Asean is on track to realise the Asean Economic Community (AEC) by 2015 despite the many challenges, Minister of International Trade and Industry, Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said.

The 10-nation grouping has to-date met its commitments in goods, services and investment, and has implemented 83.8 per cent of the measures under phase I of the AEC Blueprint for the period of 2008-2009.

“Malaysia implemented 103 out of 110 measures with an implementation rate of 93.6 per cent,” he told reporters after the ministry’s monthly gathering here.

He said under phase II (2010-2011) of the AEC Blueprint, Asean has implemented 64.1 per cent of the measures.

Mustapa said challenges faced by Asean in implementing the measures included pressure from stakeholders towards adopting policies which may be deemed protectionist in nature.

There were also challenges in strengthening innovation and creativity among SMEs, including facilitating easier access to finance.

The region also needs to create a strong and dynamic human resources pool to meet the needs and requirements of a new and fast changing industrial production technology.

He also said that while the implementation of AEC was moving towards success, the integration was still at a very shallow stage and work was needed to deepen economic integration.

“Regulatory barriers are still prevalent across the region which adds huge cost to businesses,” he said.

Mustapa said among other weaknesses in the regional integration process was the failure to eliminate non-tariff measures which posed as a major impediment to Asean’s economic integration as well as reluctance to liberalise the services sector, including the removal of market access barriers and equity restrictions.

He also said the perception of Asean as 10 different countries was changing.

Investors are now beginning to see Asean more integrated and many of the issues faced in the past have been resolved, he said. — BERNAMA