KUALA LUMPUR, Nov. 21 (PNA/Bernama) — Measures to further liberalize and integrate the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) will raise overall Gross Domestic Product in the region by 7 percent by 2025, says Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
He said the ambitious ‘Kuala Lumpur Declaration on ASEAN 2025: Forging Ahead Together’, which would incorporate the ASEAN Community Vision and released during the summit, would smoothen the integration process.
“This is about how we build upon and deepen the integration process to realize a rules-based, people-oriented, people-centered ASEAN Community in which we seek to narrow the development gap.
“Hence, the need for a single market and production base that we talk about as well as free movement of goods, services, skilled labor, capital and investments,” Najib said in his opening speech at the 27th ASEAN Summit here today.
At the moment, non-tariff barriers which affect daily lives and employment across the ASEAN nations are too extensive, he maintained.
As a single community, among others, ASEAN must prioritize the launch of the ASEAN Business Travel Card and strengthen ASEAN internship programs which allowed students to be placed with companies in the region, he said.
On small and medium enterprises (SMEs), the prime minister said the ASEAN Micro and SME Growth Accelerator Exchange for SME finance was established yesterday to cater for their financing needs.
“This is a practical, tangible example of ASEAN making a real difference to the hardworking companies that are the backbone of our economies,” he said.
Najib, who is 2015 ASEAN chair, said the association has brought immense practical benefits by making a direct financial difference.
He pointed out that the ASEAN Free Trade Area or AFTA had reduced tariffs to zero or near zero which directly reduced the prices of countless goods and allowed citizens to have more money to spend on their families.
In contrast, Najib said firms in the region would find it harder to access each other’s markets without AFTA and as a consequence, unemployment would be higher.
The overall unemployment rate among 10 nations was a comparatively low of 3.3 per cent, which economists attribute not just to countries but to ASEAN attracting substantial flows of foreign direct investment, he said.
Najib said citizens would not enjoy visa-free travel through nine out of 10 member states and professionals would find it far harder to work in each other’s country without ASEAN and the mutual recognition agreements in place. (PNA/BERNAMA)