WASHINGTON: A significant progress has been made to integrate the economies of the 10 member states of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean), said Malaysian US Chamber of Commerce (MYUSCHAM) executive director Roy Michael.

“The region is putting in tremendous effort to achieve full integration by year-end as outlined in the Asean Economic Community (AEC) blueprint,” he told Bernama after Asean-US Trade Winds Forum at Malaysian Embasssy here on Wednesday.

The half-day forum was a quarterly event hosted on rotation by Asean member embassies here to increase understanding between American and Asean small and medium enterprises.

Michael said the panel discussions included update on the progress of the AEC, challenges in achieving Asean economic integration, and the South China Sea dispute.

“Among the guest speakers were Malaysian Ambassador to the US, Datuk Dr Awang Adek Husin and representatives from Malaysias International Trade and Industry (MITI) and Malaysia External Trade Development Corp.

“Others included representatives from Myanmar and Philippines embassies, US US Department of Commerce, US Agency for International Development, Centre of Naval Analysis and the US-ASEAN Business Council,” he said.

Asean could become one of the largest economies and markets in the world, with over 600 million people, he said.

“The region’s combined gross domestic product (GDP) was RM2.4 trillion in 2013, which makes Asean the seven largest markets in the world, if the Asean Economic Community is realised. Should the trend continues, Asean has the potential to become the fourth largest market in the world by 2050,” he said.

He said MYUSCHAM would host an Islamic finance conference on Oct 22, themed ‘Islamic Capital Market: Inroads into the US’ and a tagline ‘An Alternative Engine for Growth’ here.

“The conference will be presented by Malaysian and American Islamic Capital Market players and is spearheaded by Datuk Noripah Kamso, Chairman of MYUSCHAM Islamic Finance Industry Council.

Noripah is currently the global practitioner in residence in the Centre for Global Citizenship of Principal Financial Group, US. In this role she is attached to Drake University, Des Moines, in Iowa, he added.

He said the conference would be a perfect meeting place for Malaysians and Americans to leverage on opportunities to attract greater collaborations and cooperation between both capital market players. – Bernama