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ASEAN making substantial progress toward integration — Dominguez

Dominguez said the region is on track to meet its timetable for economic integration as laid out in the ASEAN Economic Blueprint 2025. PPD/King Rodriguez, File

MANILA, Philippines — The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) has made substantial progress toward creating a single common market amid concerns of rising protectionist policies and monetary policy tightening in other parts of the globe, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said yesterday.

During the International Monetary Fund’s Managing Directors Roundtable Meeting with ASEAN Finance Ministers and Central Governors, Dominguez said the region is on track to meet its timetable for economic integration as laid out in the ASEAN Economic Blueprint 2025.

“The ASEAN has moved dramatically in its effort to build a region-wide policy framework to enhance trade, economic cooperation and financial flows among the association’s member countries. We are now moving closer towards achieving the strategic goal of a common regional market,” Dominguez said.

As the chairman of the ASEAN Finance Ministers Process (FMP) this year, Dominguez spoke on behalf of his fellow ministers during the IMF roundtable meeting.

According to Dominguez, Southeast Asia’s growth is expected to settle at five percent this year, driven by strong domestic consumption. He said growth in some economies is muted due to higher inflation and weaker-than-expected trade flows.

“The ASEAN region is presently one of the fastest and main drivers of global growth. As a group of export-oriented economies, however, we look with concern at the prospect of more developed countries adopting more inward-looking trade and investment policies,” Dominguez said.

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He also relayed ASEAN’s concern over the normalization of US monetary policy rates, noting the region saw its economy expanding rapidly during the period of low interest rates, supplemented by low fuel costs.

During the roundtable meeting, Dominguez also cited the significant progress made for the ASEAN + 3 (Korea, Japan, China) Finance Cooperation Framework and the Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralization (CMIM) arrangement.

The CMIM is a currency swap agreement among the finance ministries and central banks of the ASEAN + 3 economies that aims to provide financial support for short-term liquidity problems.

 “We have achieved progress as well on the ASEAN + 3 Macroeconomic Research Office (AMRO). We have finalized the AMRO’s Strategic Direction and Medium-term Implementation Plan. This plan seeks to build up AMRO towards delivering high quality and original surveillance to member economies supportive of the CMIM,” Dominguez said.

He added a memorandum of understanding between the AMRO and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has already been signed, while a similar agreement with the IMF is also being finalized.

According to Dominguez, ASEAN Finance Ministers have also adopted strategic action plans, which lay out detailed deliverables and timelines in line with the ASEAN Economic Blueprint 2025.

Dominguez said they have also made good progress in the ratification of the sixth and seventh package of the Financial Services Commitments and have started negotiations for the eighth package.

He said Southeast Asian Finance Ministers have also developed a roadmap for the ASEAN Insurance Integration Framework, achieved progress in the ASEAN Banking Integration Framework, and launched financial inclusion initiatives in the region, among others.

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