PHNOM PENH: Asean leaders have decided to delay the launch of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) for 12 months from Jan 1 to Dec 31, 2015 to prepare the necessary regulations.
Lao Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Thongloun Sisoulith told the Bangkok Post that Asean leaders have agreed the AEC could be launched on Dec 31, 2015.
Thai Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said Asean economic ministers had previously agreed on a Jan 1, 2015 launch date for the AEC but said Sunday that much work still remains to be done.
"Asean is more concerned about the substance than the date," he said.
Lao Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong suggested the AEC could be launched on Aug 8, Asean Day, the same year.
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But Cambodia, which is the current chairman of the regional grouping, ruled the date of implementation should be Dec 31, 2015, Mr Surapong said.
He said several leaders had agreed they still need to make more progress in several areas, among them a visa requirement for Asean people travelling in the region.
Asean members have completed 72% of the economic blueprint needed to bring about the AEC, with tasks in the socio-cultural and political-security fields also pending, diplomatic sources said.
Some Asean leaders expressed concerns about the negative effects of the AEC, in particular transnational problems such as drug trafficking.
Others took note of the need for Asean to balance the contesting presence of regional and global leaders in the region, the sources said.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen called in his opening speech for a timely implementation of programmes and plans of action to build the AEC and promote connectivity. "To achieve this objective, we need to encourage Asean ministers to formulate necessary policy measures to be implemented before 2015 in key areas," he said.
These included tariff and non-tariff barriers, investment liberalisation, connectivity and transport, small- and medium-sized enterprise development, initiatives for Asean integration, mutual recognition arrangements on professional services and labour mobility, institutional building and regulatory reforms and institutional issues for AEC building, he said.
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- Writer: Achara Ashayagachat