KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia remains undeterred in galvanising regional efforts towards forging closer political, economic and socio-cultural linkages and realising the “ASEAN Community” in exactly 100 days.
As the current Chair of ASEAN, Malaysia is going full steam ahead to achieve what is surely a grandiose plan towards regional community building despite challenges, including global economic uncertainties and foreign exchange volatilities.
The final leg, therefore, could be challenging for the transformation of the 10-member grouping amid these challenges but the good news is that member states reinforced their commitments during the earlier summit in April and ministerial meetings which Malaysia chaired.
They have resolved to create a single market and bring the region’s 650 million populace much closer and making ASEAN more secure and peaceful.
Among the various initiatives, the economic pillar seems to gain the greatest traction with the much-talked-about ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) having achieved 91.5 per cent compliance out of about 506 measures.
But Malaysia, along with its nine fellow members, acknowledge that there remains much work that needs to be done, especially in areas relating to the movements of goods.
The clear message is for ASEAN’s economic potentials to be exploited fully as in terms of trade and investment, the regional grouping has made tremendous progress in forging the ASEAN Free Trade Area and eliminating tariffs on most goods.
Intra-ASEAN trade had expanded to US$608 billion to-date from mere US$86 million in 1992.
As for intra-ASEAN foreign direct investment (FDI), it continued to grow and accounted for an increasing share of the total FDI inflows to the region, reaching 17.9 per cent, or US$24.4 billion, in 2014 as compared with 11.3 per cent in 2007.
Total FDI inflows to the region in 2014 were the highest to-date at US$136.2 billion, amounting to 160 per cent of the pre-crisis level inflows in 2007 when the AEC Blueprint was first adopted.
Elsewhere, ASEAN officials are working around the clock to push crucial measures relating to the liberalisation of the transportation, services and ASEAN Single Window –- the latter aimed at expediting Customs clearance.
Besides the economic pillar, the Political-Security Community aimed at coordinating regional security policies both traditional and non-traditional is work in progress as they deal with issues as and when they arise.
For instance, the recent exodus of the Rohingya community from Myanmar, hidden transit camps and graves near borders resulted in an international outcry for ASEAN to coordinate cooperation among its member countries in effectively dealing with such issues.
ASEAN has pledged to tackle the irregular movement of persons, which includes people smuggling and trafficking in persons in the region by identifying and addressing the root causes.
At the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in early August, the ministers have reiterated their commitment to double efforts in achieving a drug-free ASEAN by end-2015, by addressing both demand and supply reduction measures.
The ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community, meanwhile, is focused on achieving greater unity among the nations and peoples of ASEAN by forging a common identity and building a caring and sharing society.
Among others, there has been good progress in the development of the Regional Framework and Action Plan to Implement the ASEAN Declaration on Strengthening Social Protection, Regional Plan of Action on Elimination of Violence Against Women and Regional Plan of Action on Elimination of Violence Against Children.
The implementation of the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity, which is crucial for the ASEAN Community as a better-connected ASEAN, is imperative in promoting economic growth, narrowing development gap and promoting greater people-to-people contacts have also been smooth.
Realising fully the three pillars of ASEAN Community is, however, not an end goal itself but rather is “work in progress.”
What is important here is that Malaysia’s chairmanship in 2015 will stand out as a key milestone, particularly in getting members to reinforce their commitment towards a common goal despite the current challenges. – BERNAMA
Read More : http://www.nst.com.my/news/2015/09/100-day-journey-asean-community
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