AEC spells 'opportunities for Asean, S. Korea'

The upcoming Asean Economic Community (AEC) could spell "tremendous opportunities" for Asean countries and South Korea.

Mr Kim Young Sun, secretary- general of the Asean-Korean Centre, said leaders from Asean and South Korea have set a target for two-way trade to reach US$200 billion (S$285 billion) by 2020, up from US$138.2 billion last year.

"An integrated Asean would bring more opportunities for investment and intra-regional economic cooperation, which (also) leads to higher chances of economic cooperation for Asean and other partners in Korea," said Mr Kim, adding that Korean corporates are watching the development of the AEC very closely.

The Seoul-based Asean-Korea Centre is an inter-governmental group that aims to promote Asean-South Korea economic and socio-cultural cooperation.

Mr Kim was speaking to the media on Monday ahead of a four-day food and cultural trade fair in South Korea - which started yesterday - that involves about 100 companies from the 10 Asean member states.

He acknowledged that challenges remain ahead of a fully integrated AEC, which is envisioned as a single market across South-east Asia's diverse economies. It is set to be launched by the end of the year.

"On the one hand, the countries are working in a more cooperative way," noted Mr Kim. "But on the other hand, there is the tightening of the protectionist barriers to defend local industries."

He said Asean member states need to put in a "concerted effort" in order for the AEC to succeed.

He also cited the narrowing of the development gap among Asean countries as "a very important task, but also a very difficult task".

The Asean-Korea Centre, for its part, hopes to contribute in areas such as building capacity in infrastructure and improving connectivity, he said.

Mr Kim remains positive on the AEC's prospects, saying: "Asean and South Korea, as partners, need each other and our economies are complementary to each other."

Asean is South Korea's second largest trade partner after China.  

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 19, 2015, with the headline 'AEC spells 'opportunities for Asean, S. Korea''. Print Edition | Subscribe