Members of the High Level Task Force on the Asean economic integration are putting together new recommendations that will enable the region to remain on track to implement measures necessary for the establishment of the Asean Economic Community by the end of 2015.

These recommendations will be based mainly on the results of the 25th meeting of the said task force in Myanmar which is starting today. The Philippines is being represented by Trade Undersecretary Adrian S. Cristobal Jr.

“The High Level Task Force is the body in the Asean that looks into the regional economic integration.

We will be updating each other during the meeting on the AEC blueprint. We will also discuss the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), among other issues,” Cristobal said.

He, however, declined to divulge the details of the RCEP, noting that he has yet to get updates from his counterparts in the Asean.

Expected to further open up new and bigger markets for Philippine businesses, the RCEP is a proposed free trade agreement between the 10-member Asean and their six FTA partners such as China, Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand. This group of nations reportedly accounted for 40 percent of the world’s trade and has a combined GDP of around $17 trillion.

“Also part of the agenda is to also make recommendations that will be submitted to the ministers who, in turn, will discuss these at the Asean economic ministers’ retreat,” he added.

According to the Asean, the High Level Task Force, while focusing its recommendations relating to liberalization and facilitation measures, has since acknowledged the need to enhance cooperation and integration activities in other areas.

These will involve activities pertaining to human resource development and capacity building; recognition of educational qualifications; closer consultations on macroeconomic and financial policies; trade financing measures; enhanced infrastructure and communications connectivity; development of electronic transactions through e-Asean; integrating industries across the region to promote regional sourcing, and enhancing private sector involvement.

Asean-member states are currently priming for the AEC, which is seen to transform the Asean into a single market and production base. For the Philippines, this presents dynamic competition and vast opportunities with the free flow of goods, services, skilled labor, investments and capital. –Amy R. Remo, Philippine Daily Inquirer

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