Asean Community set to be formed in 'historic milestone'

Flags of the Asean member states displayed in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei.
Flags of the Asean member states displayed in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei. PHOTO: ST FILE

The formation of the Asean Community today is a historic milestone for the regional grouping that has provided a stable environment for the economic growth of Singapore, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said.

"This is an important occasion for all the people of Asean. The establishment of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) will contribute significantly to the region's growth and create developmental opportunities for all," the ministry said in a press statement issued yesterday.

The AEC aims to integrate South-east Asia's diverse economies, which comprise 622 million people and had a combined gross domestic product of US$2.6 trillion (S$3.7 trillion) last year.

 

It envisions a common market and measures to make businesses more competitive, while allowing professionals to move more freely across borders.

"More importantly, it will give our people, especially the young, many more opportunities to succeed. Our local businesses, especially the small and medium enterprises, also stand to gain. By expanding their operations beyond national boundaries to the wider region, they will be able to serve Asean's growing middle class," the statement said.

"This milestone could not have been achieved without all the people working together... 2015 is an important juncture, but by no means the end point. We have a lot of untapped potential and we should capitalise on that," added the ministry in its statement.

Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan posted a personal message about the formation of the AEC on Facebook yesterday.

"Tomorrow, we will form the Asean Community. It's a significant milestone in Asean's history. Since its inception, Asean has contributed to regional peace and stability. This has provided a stable environment for Singapore's economic growth.

"Over the years, people-to-people linkages within Asean have also been enhanced," he wrote.

"Asean's community-building is a journey, not a destination. Let us continue to work together to deepen the Asean Community," added Dr Balakrishnan.

The minister's post included a link to a YouTube video that provides information on the benefits of the AEC for Singapore.

The AEC is the first of three pillars that will make up the Asean Community.

The other pillars are the Asean Political-Security Community - which will bring officials together regularly to collectively tackle challenges ranging from terrorism to maritime disputes - and the Asean Socio-Cultural Community. The latter seeks to foster an Asean identity through youth exchanges and other efforts, such as a joint response to natural disasters.

The AEC will comprise the 10 Asean members - Singapore, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

By transforming Asean into a single market and production base, the AEC will boost the competitiveness and connectivity of the region as a whole.

If fully implemented, the AEC could lift aggregate output by 7 per cent annually by 2025.

The AEC could generate around 14 million new jobs by 2025, which means more opportunities in the corporate workplace.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 31, 2015, with the headline 'Asean Community set to be formed in 'historic milestone''. Print Edition | Subscribe