|Leaders of member states of ASEAN attend a signing ceremony in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia yesterday. The ten ASEAN countries signed the 2015 Kuala Lumpur Declaration on the Establishment of the ASEAN Community and the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on ASEAN 2025: Forging Ahead Together. — XINHUA/VNA Photo
KUALA LUMPUR (VNS) — The ASEAN Community was officially declared yesterday by leaders of the 10 member states of ASEAN in a landmark moment promising greater regional integration for the 48-year-old group.
Twelve years in the making, the foremost goal of the ASEAN Community is to turn the region into a single market and production base by eliminating remaining trade barriers and harmonising standards.
All 10 leaders signed a declaration on the establishment of the ASEAN Community, which will come into effect on December 31, as well as a declaration on a blueprint for taking the grouping forward over the next 10 years.
In practice, ASEAN countries have already done away with most tariff barriers, increased the competitiveness of ASEAN's manufacturing industry in the global market and reduced costs for everyone, said ASEAN chairman Najib Razak.
"We now have to ensure that we create a truly single market and production base, with freer movement of goods and services," said the Malaysian PM.
"For that - with common standards, far greater connectivity, and the removal of the barriers that make our borders a hindrance to growth and investment - will be one that is primed to expand exponentially."
The combined GDP of ASEAN economies is expected to grow from US$2.6 trillion to $4.7 trillion by 2020. Seen as a bloc it is the seventh largest economy today, and has the potential to be the fourth largest in the world as early as 2030.
But the notion of the ASEAN Community goes beyond economics, said Najib.
"It is also about all of us being ASEAN, recognising that something special binds us, and making our citizens feel that ASEAN courses through their veins," he said.
At the ASEAN-US Summit, the two sides agreed to establish a strategic partnership and hold the ASEAN-US Special Summit in 2016.
They affirmed their commitment to fighting trans-national crimes, particularly terrorism, human trafficking, piracy and wildlife smuggling. They also agreed to boost trade, investment, connectivity, maritime and youth collaboration, as well as response to natural disasters and climate change.
At the ASEAN-Japan Summit, leaders of ASEAN countries and Japan, the bloc's third largest economic partner with bilateral trade amounted to $229 billion and the bloc's second largest investor with investment of $23.4 billion, lauded both side's efforts and accomplishments in implementing the 2013 ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Co-operation Vision.
Leaders also expressed their commitment to further bolster co-operation, which would see trade and investment activities among Japan and the bloc set to double by 2022, the ASEAN-Japan 10-year Strategic Economic Co-operation Roadmap and the 2015 Tokyo Strategy for Japan-Mekong Co-operation.
The bloc and Japan will also join forces in the fight against terrorism and continue to collaborate in the field of energy management, disaster management and control, medical, information technology and conduct cultural and people exchanges.
At the ASEAN-South Korea Summit, leaders affirmed their positions to encourage more commercial activities between ASEAN countries and Korea, the bloc's fifth largest trade partner, to bring trade to the $200 billion mark by 2020.
They stressed the importance of building on the friendship between the people of ASEAN and the people of South Korea with the establishment of an ASEAN Cultural House in the Korea city of Busan in 2017. Co-operation on climate change, sustainable forest management, infrastructure development and communications would also be prioritised.
Leaders who participated in the ASEAN-UN Summit condemned recent terrorist attacks while calling for greater global efforts in the fight against transnational terrorism and organised crime.
ASEAN leaders praised the UN's contribution to ASEAN's integration process and agreed to further increase co-operation in various fields with the UN including food security, agro-forestry, medical, disease control, anti-drug trafficking and climate change.
At the ASEAN-China Summit, both sides agreed to lift bilateral trade to US$1 trillion and two-way investment to $150 billion by 2020.
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the ASEAN-China partnership next year, they chose to make 2016 the year of education co-operation, packed with cultural and youth exchanges, and the ASEAN-China young entrepreneurs' forum.
Meanwhile, ASEAN and India are aiming for two-way trade of $200 billion by 2022, as set in their new action plan for 2016-2020, which covers economy, trade, connectivity, science-technology, renewable energy, food security, tourism and climate change.
They are to step up connectivity in infrastructure, institution and human aspects with discussions on the ASEAN-India Maritime Transport Agreement.
The ASEAN+3 Summit adopted a final report on launching the East Asia Vision Group II's recommendations. The participants agreed on priority links across economy, trade, connectivity, financial stability, tourism, education, information, science-technology, healthcare, disaster control, climate change mitigation, agro-forestry-fisheries, food and energy security and the environment.
Further agreements on settling traditional and non-traditional security issues were also reached.
Leaders of ASEAN++3 countries also met with the East Asia Business Council. — THE STRAITS TIMES/ VNS