The ASEAN Connectivity Master Plan provides a good framework for APEC to emulate in its efforts to enhance economic integration, according to Dr Alan Bollard, Executive Director of the APEC Secretariat.

Speaking at a recent symposium on the connectivity issue hosted by the Institute for Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, Dr Bollard highlighted that the Master Plan provides a strategic structure for ASEAN’s work on integration and its objective of building an ASEAN Economic Community by 2015.

He said: “In APEC we have been reviewing this Master Plan in order to take lessons from it. Work over the last two years involving a mapping exercise to identify APEC and ASEAN initiatives, and highlighting areas for possible collaboration has taken place.

“These areas included Supply Chain Connectivity as well as Trade Facilitation, Investment Facilitation, Disaster Preparedness, Structural and Regulatory Reform, Food Security and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).”

Noting that “a globalised world requires connectivity”, Dr Bollard said that connectivity will also enable collaboration in areas such as customs procedures, single window procedures and the harmonisation of approaches. Addressing these areas will not only benefit businesses due to freer access to markets, but also consumers as they will have greater access to products with a higher level of variety.

While as a region, ASEAN has experienced positive rates of economic growth with an annual average growth rate of 5.5 per cent over the last 13 years, according to the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) World Economic Outlook report, it is clear that the removal of technical barriers to trade and increased cross border integration would further unleash the region’s growth potential.

With its firm commitment in building a single ASEAN market, the region has seen some important developments towards economic integration. However, it is clear there is still work to be done to ensure a harmonised set of standards across ASEAN.

FIA Members agree that cross border integration is important to help promote sustainable economic growth in the ASEAN region.

It is on this premise that the ASEAN Food and Beverage Alliance (AFBA) has been formed. Made up of representatives from national food industry associations in the region, the objectives of the Alliance are very much in line with the ASEAN community’s goals of an economically integrated region by 2015.

“With support from FIA, AFBA will work towards establishing a harmonised set of standards and industry priorities as well as provide a voice for the food industry at the policy table. This will not only promote intra- and extra-regional trade for the industry but also increase the potential for economic integration.