Philippines ready for Asean Economic Community
Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) - November 21, 2015 - 9:00am

KUALA LUMPUR – President Aquino said yesterday the Philippines is ready for the full integration of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which is set to sign a declaration to remove trade barriers.

ASEAN leaders are expected to sign here today the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on the Establishment of the ASEAN Community and the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on the ASEAN (Vision) 2025.

“The hard work that we have collectively undertaken over the past years truly fills me with hope for the future of ASEAN. Such a hope is even more pronounced, given that today, we inaugurate the establishment of the ASEAN Community and launch our Vision 2025,” Aquino said in his intervention in the plenary session of the 27th ASEAN summit.

“My country will be ensuring that it will be implemented in line with our national development plan,” he said.

“We are also fully aware that realizing this vision will entail not only the effort of government, but of the broadest spectrum of society as well: From business leaders to civil society and to the common man who dreams of a dignified life,” Aquino said.

The President said their task is to ensure that ASEAN would become a greater force for empowerment and inclusiveness in their respective countries.

“In recent years, much has been said of the emergence of ASEAN in the global arena. The establishment of the ASEAN Community this year signals to the world that a stronger ASEAN will be an enduring mainstream built on solidarity and communal progress,” Aquino said.

“Therefore, moving forward, it is incumbent upon us to develop a post-2015 ASEAN Connectivity Agenda that articulates both our aspirations and the complexities we have to contend with,” he added.

The Philippines is proud of ASEAN’s increasingly expanding role in global affairs, Aquino said, as evidenced by the growing number of countries interested in dealing with the bloc.

“The formal establishment of the ASEAN Community testifies to the great strides we have achieved since the founding of ASEAN in 1967. Then as now, there are challenges we face together. We mark this milestone in our journey firm in the conviction of securing ASEAN’s rightful place in Asia and the world,” Aquino said.

Department of Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary for ASEAN Affairs Luis Cruz said based on the Department of Trade and Industry’s report, the Philippines is 84 percent ready for the integration.

Cruz said most of the contentious issues involved agricultural products and the Philippines would have to, for example, help the sugar industry diversify first before import duties in that sector could be totally removed.

The ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Blueprint was adopted during the 13th ASEAN Summit on Nov. 20, 2007 in Singapore to serve as a master plan for the establishment of the AEC 2015.

The aim is to make ASEAN a single market and production base, a highly competitive economic region with an equitable economic development and fully integrated into the global economy.

Deeper integration

In his opening statement, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak said the ASEAN Community and Vision 2025 declarations “would 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.”

Najib described the goals as “ambitious” but noted gains already achieved by ASEAN on the economic front.

The Malaysian leader said the ASEAN Free Trade Area or AFTA has reduced tariffs to zero or near zero, thus effectively reducing the prices of countless goods.

Najib said this “means our citizens have more money to spend on their families” and that without AFTA, companies would find it harder to access each other’s markets.

ACIRC AFFAIRS LUIS CRUZ AQUINO ASEAN ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS COMMUNITY COMMUNITY AND THE KUALA LUMPUR DECLARATION COMMUNITY AND VISION CONNECTIVITY AGENDA DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS ASSISTANT SECRETARY DEPARTMENT OF TRADE AND INDUSTRY
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