The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is on track to establish a single market by 2015, said the head of the regional organization.

“The ASEAN Economic Community [by] 2015 remains on track and top priority,” said ASEAN Secretary General Dr. Surin Pitsuwan in a statement released Wednesday.

He noted, though, that there has not been an exact target date for the start of the single market: “Should it be 1 January? Mid-year? Or end of 2015?”

Despite this, when economic ministers from member nations met recently in Seam Reap, they agreed to redouble efforts to meet the measures lined up in the ASEAN Economic Community (AE) Blueprint by 2015. It currently stands at 72 percent done, an improvement from the 67.5 percent implementation rate reported last year.

However, Pitsuwan said the ministers also sounded cautious at the event, noting that “the uncertain global economy still presents a major risk to ASEAN economies,” and that ASEAN showed some “signs of weakness” in the first quarter regarding economic growth, external trade and foreign direct investments.

A goal of the single market is to ease flow of trade and investments within the regional bloc, which is comprised of the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

The delegates agreed to “prioritize the AEC measures and aim for realistic targets by 2015, but without lowering the ambition set by the leaders and ensuring that there is no backtracking of commitments.”

According to Pitsuwan, the economic leaders lined up priority measures needed to accelerate the implementation of the ASEAN single market, including:

– the ratification of specific agreements on customs and transport;

– the strengthening the ability of member nations to implement domestic laws and implement reforms in line with regional initiatives;

– addressing non-tariff barriers;

– enhancing the efficiency of services liberalization;

– promoting ASEAN as an integrated investment area; and

– strengthening trade and investment facilitation (particularly in customs and transport facilitation) to encourage greater trade, services, and investment flows into ASEAN. — BM, GMA News