KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is committed to realising the vision of the Asean Community (AC), which will open up new and enormous opportunities for people and businesses through freer movement of goods, services, skilled labour and capital, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
Describing the AC as a collective act of closer economic, political and cultural integration that would be launched this year, he said that all the Asean members stood “on the brink of tremendous opportunity”.
“With the establishment of Asean as a single market and production base, we will unlock the potential to level the playing field with the world’s biggest economies.
“There is every reason to hope that further integration will lead to the world witnessing the emergence of a new economic power: South-East Asia (SEA),” he said in his keynote address at the Asean Cap10 CEO Summit here yesterday.
Najib recalled his immense pride as a 14-year-old to witness the hard work of his father, Tun Abdul Razak Hussein and the foreign ministers of Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia and Singapore, come to fruition with the signing of the Asean Declaration.
He said that in the coming months, Malaysia would continue to work closely with member states to ensure that Asean delivered on key initiatives.
He added that he would recommend at the 26th Asean Summit in April that an enhanced Asean secretariat be deployed to ensure Asean states worked together to craft and implement its post-2015 agenda.
“As Chair of the Association in this pivotal year, I can assure you that Malaysia will play a key role in building a stronger, more prosperous, more open SEA - an Asean that truly is about our people, our community and our vision,” he said.
Noting that its international trade had almost tripled in the last 10 years, Najib said that foreign direct investment (FDI) had been increasing in the region, with Malaysia recording its highest ever FDI last year.
He said that harmonising and standardising trade and customs as well as processes and procedures would reduce transaction costs, increasing Asean’s attractiveness as an investment location and enhancing export competitiveness.
“Liberalising the financial services sector while ensuring responsible investment and sustainability will further increase investor confidence, stability and growth,” he said.
Najib said that the Asean Exchanges collaboration, created three years ago, was to attract new global investors and bring liquidity to a more integrated Asean market and related asset classes.
He added that this collaboration had provided both regional and international equity investors the opportunity to access a more liquid and integrated market, facilitate capital raising for companies and allow investors to benchmark performance globally.
“It has also helped pave the way for the regional expansion of highly professional Asean-grown equity market participants, and led to the development of new Asean equity indices that provide a global benchmark for the Asean market performance,” he said.
Najib also noted that Asean’s ‘Millenials’ were one of the world’s largest groups of new entrants into the workforce following the Asian baby boom of the 1980s and 1990s.
“They are smart, they thrive on disruptive technology and they are more meaningfully connected to the world than any generation before them,” he said.
Although the 10 different member nations are at different stages of economic and social development, Najib said that different specialisations and competitive advantages would drive competition and prosperity within a region that increasingly functioned as a single market.
At the same time, he said it was critical that everyone worked together to raise awareness throughout Asean about the significant opportunities available and the shared responsibility to achieve these goals sustainably.
“Everyone, from an equity analyst in Singapore, a rice farmer in Thailand, a halal food business owner here in Kuala Lumpur, SMEs, and business leaders throughout our region should be aware of the shared growth and prosperity that the Asean Community aims to enable, and have access to this potential,” he said.