The Straits Times
Published on Nov 05, 2012

Asean to 'chart its own course' on integration: Malaysia


VIENTIANE (AFP) - South-east Asia will "chart its own course" as it deepens economic linkages, building on the successes and learning from the mistakes of the European Union, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said on Monday.

Speaking at a summit of Asian and European leaders in Laos, Mr Najib said the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) was on course to establish an economic community by 2015. "It is our chance to restate the case for economic cooperation across borders," he said on the first day of the Asia-Europe Meeting, held against the backdrop of the festering euro zone debt crisis.

"Of course, Asia is not Europe. But the fundamental principles behind free trade are the same wherever you are in the world." Mr Najib said the Asean economic community aims to boost trade among the 10 member states by reducing barriers, harmonising rules and easing the flow of goods and services.

Asean has however taken a cautious approach to accommodate the needs of its diverse membership, which ranges from communist-ruled states to democracies and a sultanate at various levels of economic development.