PHNOM PENH — The 44th ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting (AEM 44) kicked off in Siem Reap city, Cambodia yesterday.
ASEAN economic ministers focused their discussions on measures and plans to promote the intra bloc economic integration, build an ASEAN Economic Community by 2015.
The Vietnamese delegation to AEM 44 and related meetings is headed by Minister of Industry and Trade Vu Huy Hoang.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen emphasised the importance of AEM 44 for the bloc, especially in the context of ASEAN's efforts to implement the goal of forming the ASEAN Community by 2015.
According to the Cambodian prime minister, one of the top priorities of AEM 44 and related meetings is to promote the inaugural of the ASEAN Economic Community through turning ASEAN into a unified production establishment and market.
Hun Sen called for further narrowing of the development gap between ASEAN members as the group moves towards forming the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015.
"Although the development gap among Asean members has been narrowed down over the years, it is still huge," he said.
He added that development gaps, combined with the fragile economic recovery in developed countries coupled with the European debt crisis, turmoil in the Middle East and other external challenges, "pose a great threat to the socio-economic development of ASEAN achieved over the last four decades."
In addition to narrowing the development gap, Hun Sen also stressed the need to improve "connectivity" between ASEAN members while building better physical and institutional infrastructure and promoting small and medium-sized enterprises.
Establishing the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015 is "the top priority" to achieve a single market and production base with "free flow of goods, services, investment, skilled labor and freer flow of capital," the prime minister said.
"Thus there is a need to prioritise actions and key concrete measures to address challenges and bridge the development gap, which hinders realisation of (the) ASEAN Economic Community as planned."
Hun Sen also asked the ministers for recommendations on the "legal implication, impacts and challenges" relating to Hong Kong acceding to the ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement at the Asean Summit in Phnom Penh in November. Hong Kong is among ASEAN's top 10 trading partners. — VNA/Rasmei Kampuchea Daily