ASEAN has successfully implemented 79.4 per cent of the goals mapped out in the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Blueprint as of July this year, according to the region’s economic ministers in a joint statement issued after the recent 45th ASEAN Economic Ministers’ (AEM) Meeting held on 19 August in Brunei Darussalam.

Co-chaired by Brunei’s Second Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Hon. Pehin Dato Lim Jock Seng, the meeting focused on the progress and developments in establishing the AEC by 2015 and the various measures needed to deepen the integration between the ASEAN states.

Following the meeting, Indonesian Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan said: "The AEC scorecard sits about 79 to 80 per cent thus far. This is a reflection of the hard work that has been put in by every member country in the last few years and also at the same time a reflection of the degree of realism with which we want to approach the ASEAN Economic Community."

The Ministers also reaffirmed their commitment in enhancing the implementation of in-country measures to realise the regional measures in time for the realisation of the AEC by 2015. The joint statement highlighted that the Ministers have also “endorsed the list of prioritised key deliverables for 2013 and 2015, identified by the different AEC sectoral bodies”.

In particular, the Ministers noted the progress made by the ASEAN Consultative Committee on Standards and Quality (ACCSQ) in eliminating the technical barriers to trade (TBTs) in the region through the harmonisation of standards and technical requirements. To attain greater harmonisation of standards in the region, the Ministers urged Member states to “prioritise actions on harmonisation of standards” and to “reduce country specific requirements on standards and technical requirements/regulations”.

Support for public-private sector engagement was also highlighted, with the Ministers commending the ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ASEAN BAC) for holding its first consultation with the business councils to gain feedback in accelerating the progress for an integrated ASEAN economy.

The ASEAN BAC is the official channel through which the private sector can provide feedback, recommendations and guidance to ASEAN leaders and policy makers.

FIA Policy Director, Melanie Vilarasau Slade, agrees that public-private engagement is important in helping the region realise its goal for an integrated market by 2015 and that the harmonisation process can be accelerated through active collaboration between the Governments and the private sector.

She added that through dedicated industry groups such as the ASEAN Food and Beverage Alliance (AFBA), the private sector is able to work with the Governments to remove the remaining technical barriers to trade and help ease the movement of food between countries.

“Like many sectors, the food industry is poised for explosive growth in ASEAN and AFBA is at the forefront of this exciting journey. We are aware there will be challenges ahead, but harmonised regulations can be achieved through the development of a shared vision and active collaboration between the ASEAN Government and the private sector.

“Building a single economic community is a huge task. It requires Governments, the private sector and civil society to work together. Working together requires active, rather than passive, participation by the private sector. Through collaboration between the public and private sectors, there is therefore, the opportunity to accelerate the harmonisation process and the region’s efforts on economic integration by 2015,” she said.

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