49th ASEAN Economic Ministers’ meet opens in PH

MANILA — The 49th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Economic Ministers’ Meeting (AEM) formally opened in Pasay City Thursday.

Trade ministers of the regional bloc’s 10 member states have convened here to move forward action plans for the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).

In his opening statement, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Ramon Lopez said ASEAN economic ministers decided to strengthen five characteristics of the AEC Blueprint 2025.

These are making ASEAN a highly integrated and cohesive economy; a competitive, innovative, and dynamic ASEAN; enhanced connectivity and sectoral cooperation; a resilient, inclusive and people-oriented, people-centered ASEAN; and a global ASEAN through the operationalization of key action lines in Consolidated Strategic Action Plan (CSAP).

Lopez, who is also the AEM chair, also called on fellow ASEAN ministers to work towards facilitative measure to address long-standing issues, which range from ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement, implementation of National Single Window initiatives linked to the ASEAN Single Window and improving customs integration procedures, and reducing non-tariff barriers.

He likewise stressed that the ASEAN will maintain an open and outward-oriented perspective through free trade agreements (FTAs) with China, Japan, South Korea, India, Austalia, and New Zealand as well as maintaining cooperation mechanisms with dialogue partners such as Canada, Russia, United States, and the European Union.

“As ASEAN economic ministers, we are gathered today to send a positive signal amid a backdrop of rising trade policy uncertainties. We need to reaffirm the importance of integrating ASEAN into the regional and global economy,” the AEM chair noted.

“Through our collective efforts, we will continue to deepen the regional economic integration,” he added.
He mentioned that in the last 50 years, ASEAN has withstood numerous threats of economic instability, growing protectionism sentiments, and political uncertainties.

Lopez also highlighted that the region has achieved critical mass to further increase and develop its economy.

By 2050, ASEAN gross domestic product is expected to reach USD9.2 trillion, making the region the fourth largest economy in the world.

“Nevertheless, there is still a lot of work to be done. Looking at 2017 and beyond, ASEAN should be cognizant of the changing geostrategic landscape that presents both opportunities and challenges,” Lopez said.

“The region has to remain transformative and proactive in the face of global economic conditions,” he noted. (PNA)