KUALA LUMPUR — The Asean Economic Community (AEC) will continue to make headway next year while economic integration will gather momentum in Asean (Association of the Southeast Asian Nations) which is projected to see an economic growth of between five and six percent.

International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed had said that Asean was on track to realize the AEC by 2015.

He said the 10-nation grouping, has to-date, met its commitments in goods, services and investment, and has implemented 83.8 percent of the measures under phase one of the AEC Blueprints for the period between 2008 and 2009 and 64.1 percent under phase two of the period between 2010 and 2011.

The Asean annual report said despite these achievements there were challenges in implementing the AEC whereby the most critical was the need to assess the timeliness of implementing the measures and their impact and effectiveness.

“More action is still needed,” it said, adding that it was critical that Asean continues to engage with the private sector, strengthen connectivity, address the development divide, and build stronger institutional support and better macroeconomic and policy coordination.

It noted that the Asean Economic Ministers (AEM), which oversee the implementation of measures in the blueprint, attached importance to public-private sector engagement as a platform to ensure greater mutual synergies in the implementation of Asean economic development and integration measures.

Dialogs with private sector representatives from Asean and Dialogue Partners have been and would continue to be held, it said.

The report also said to support Asean integration into the global economy, engagement with Dialogue Partners also continued with the implementation of ongoing Free Trade Agreements and Economic Partnership with China, Japan, Korea, India, as well as, Australia and New Zealand.

At the inaugural CIMB AseanConference 2011 in October, CIMB group chief executive Datuk Seri Nazir Razak proposed that the next Asean secretary general be appointed from the corporate sector to speed up Asean economic integration and smoothen cross-border regional businesses.

Lamenting that most initiatives from Asean organizations were limited to government-to-government levels, Nazir said the region needed “someone who could really shake things up.”

Expressing his concern, Nazir said: “If we look at Asean corporates today, there is still lots of constraint to cross-border trading. This is my frustration. We need to support these companies.

The Secretary-General of Asean is appointed by the Asean Summit for a non-renewable term of five years while being selected from among nationals of the member states on alphabetical rotation.

The current Asean secretary-general is Dr. Surin Pitsuwan of Thailand and his term of office expires next year.

As an “answer” to the proposal, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao announced measures to further strengthen Asean-China cooperation, including opening its financial market to Asean companies.

The country will also establish an Asean-China association of banks as well as expand work in maritime environmental protection.

Meanwhile, judging by trade value, Surin said the Asean community needed to take full advantage of all the grouping’s incentives given for trade and economic activities, as intra-Asean total trade value was still unsatisfactory.

Beyond economy, at the just ended 19th Asean Summit in Bali, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said Asean was now facing two major geopolitical challenges that needed to be overcome in the best possible way.

He said the first was how Asean could deal with relations between China and the United States and their strategic interests.

“These two nations have strategic interest in their relations with Asean and the region. They are somewhat competing to expand their influence although their involvement in the East Asia Summit process is to increase cooperation with Asean countries and other East Asian countries,” Najib said. –PNA/Bernama