Asean enters new year as a community
(The Philippine Star) - December 31, 2015 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) enters the new year with the 10-member economic bloc promising its people an open and integrated market with more product choices at competitive costs.

The dawn of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) era brings along with it hopes for a highly competitive economic region where there is equitable development, with the region fully integrated into the global economy.

“It is a historic milestone and a culmination of ASEAN’s resilience and dynamism throughout a journey of nearly half a century, and signals to the world how far and how well the ASEAN member-states have achieved in coming together as one community,” the economic bloc composed of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam said in a statement.

The AEC, established yesterday in Kuala Lumpur by the regional bloc’s economic leaders, converges beginning 2016 a single market and production base with free movement of goods, services and investments across the 10 ASEAN member-countries through the next decade.

Together, the ASEAN has a combined market of 600 million. To date, 98.6 percent of goods are traded among member countries at zero tariff.

The Philippine government several months ahead of the Dec. 31 AEC establishment has said the country is ready to take on the challenges and seize opportunities in the upcoming full regional integration.

Now resigned Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo last September had given assurance that the country was well-positioned for the integration.

Domingo said the country’s stable economic performance along with the various reforms implemented has put the Philippines in a good position to benefit from the upcoming economic integration.

But while the government expressed optimism heading into integration, some businessmen believe the Philippines as well as other ASEAN member-countries were unready for the economic unification of the regional market.

“No, we’re not ready. People keep talking about integration but what does it really mean? I’m not saying it will not happen one day, but not in our lifetime. Let us be realistic that it won’t happen because politics will intrude,” business tycoon Manuel V. Pangilinan has said.

“The AEC has arrived. Will the Philippines meet its commitment to an open foreign investment regime under the AEC? Will it remove non-tariff barriers to trade?” American Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines senior advisor John Forbes added.

With the AEC now officially in place, it seems that there are still more questions than answers for the Philippines as well as its peers in the region.

ACIRC AMERICAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE ASEAN ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS ECONOMIC ECONOMIC COMMUNITY JOHN FORBES KUALA LUMPUR MANUEL V THAILAND AND VIETNAM TRADE SECRETARY GREGORY DOMINGO
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