Ministers reaffirm vow to regional economic integration

THE economic ministers of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean) reaffirmed their unwavering commitment to regional economic integration amid continued Covid-19 pandemic-related challenges and rising geopolitical tensions, according to a joint media statement.

The statement was issued at the end of the 54th Asean Economic Ministers’ meeting, which was convened in Cambodia’s northwestern Siem Reap province.

The Asean economy expanded by 3.4% in 2021 with growth driven by a strong rebound in consumption, investment and trade, supported by the successful rollout of vaccination programmes that enabled economies in the region to reopen domestically, it said.

It added that the ministers also noted the strong rebound in Asean’s trade and investments in 2021 as merchandise trade, propelled by electrical products and fuels, reached US$3.34 trillion (RM15 trillion) in 2021, up 25.2% from 2021.

Meanwhile, investments amounted to US$174.1bil (RM790bil) in 2021, up 42.3% from the previous year, with robust expansion noted in the manufacturing, financial and insurance services sectors, the statement added.

“The meeting noted that as at mid-August 2022, full dose vaccination rate in Asean has reached 69%, while 30.5% of the population has received booster shots,” the statement said.

“The meeting expressed optimism that the growth momentum would continue to 2022 and 2023, with growth forecast at 5% and 5.2% respectively.”

At the end of the meeting, Cambodian Ministry of Commerce’s Undersecretary of State and Spokesman Penn Sovicheat said Asean ministers recognised that the Ukraine conflict has aggravated disruptions in global chains, further fuelling inflation.

He added that the ministers also underscored that carbon neutrality and the digital economy will be drivers of the region’s development.

According to Sovicheat, the ministers also noted the significant progress in keeping the markets open for trade and investment through the implementation of the Asean Comprehensive Recovery Framework (ACRF), which serves as the region’s consolidated exit strategy from the pandemic.

“The ministers reaffirmed their commitment to jointly work towards post-pandemic recovery through the five ACRF strategies around health systems, security, economic integration, digital transformation, and sustainability,” he said.Sovicheat said the ministers also adopted the Guiding Principles for Negotiating the Asean Framework Agreement on Competition (AFAC) and launched the AFAC negotiations, to provide a fair and competitive business environment in Asean. — Xinhua

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