Nazir ‘frustrated’ with pace of AEC implementation

At Invest Malaysia 2015 yesterday. (From left) Centennial Group International director Manu Bhaskaran, Lim, Mustapa, Serge Pun and Nazir.

At Invest Malaysia 2015 yesterday. (From left) Centennial Group International director Manu Bhaskaran, Lim, Mustapa, Serge Pun and Nazir.

KUALA LUMPUR: CIMB Group Holding Bhd chairman Datuk Seri Nazir Razak is frustrated with the pace of the implementation of the Asean Economic Community (AEC), which has a year-end implementation date.

“I am not a cynic. I am a frustrated man. We bought into the Asean story in 2007 and modelled our business around it,” he said at Invest Malaysia 2015 yesterday.

Nazir said that his frustration was due to the pace of the integration and what was being promised.

He said the movement of people was still somehow restricted despite the notion of free labour flows.

Nazir suggested three “game-changing” moves to push forward the regional economic integration agenda.

He said there was a need to scale up leadership capacity and for the Asean secretariat to be better funded.

“They have to set up special divisions or special sub-agencies to deal with the specific economic sectors such as banking and others.

“I feel Asean should start marketing it to the people of Asean. A large chunk of people don’t know what it’s all about,” he said, adding that not enough had been done on this matter.

Thirdly, Nazir said he would like to see a stronger commitment from Indonesia.

“All we are saying is that some of the commentary coming out from Indonesia has been a bit less enthusiastic about Asean than what we would have thought from the largest economy of Asean,” he said.

Separately, International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said the average implementation rate of Asean Economic Community (AEC) measures was 90.5% as at March 31.

He added that 457 of the 505 measures had been implemented as at end-March.

Asean member countries have outlined a series of measures, known as AEC measures, to help with the integration.

They include matters related to tariffs, investments, services, air transport, financial services, customs procedures and standards.

“The AEC is still work in progress,” Mustapa reminded participants at the Invest Malaysia 2015 here yesterday.

He said this in a plenary session titled, “Challenges and opportunities in a borderless AEC”. Other panelists included CIMB Group chairman Datuk Seri Nazir Razak, Asean deputy secretary general Dr Lim Hong Hin and Serge Pun & Associate Group chairman Serge Pun.

Mustapa said that high priority measures had been identified for completion by the year-end. He also agreed to go for the low hanging fruit.

“The remaining 9.5% which has not been implemented include the 10th services package, single self-certification scheme, chapters with Japan and the Asean single window,” he said.

While acknowledging that there were tremendous hurdles in the integration of AEC, he said businesses had been flourishing in the region with the growth of intra-Asean trade and investments.

Collectively, he said Asean was the seventh largest economy in the world and was expected to be the fifth largest in 2020.

Mustapa said Asean was already working on the economic plan for the next phase of economic integration (2016-2025) which would continue to build on the existing AEC 2015 blueprint.

Despite a recent statement by Indonesia, he said Indonesia remained committed to the integration.

Commenting on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, he said he was looking forward to the prospects of the US Trade Promotion Authority as its formation, if passed by Congress, would exert the process.

“We are still negotiating such as on the bumiputra issue and the next timeline for us would be to get a better buy-in from the Malaysian public,” he said.