Y.B. Dato’ Mustapa Mohamed, Minister of International Trade and Industry, led the Malaysian delegation. The ASEAN Economic Ministers noted that initiatives to create a single market have contributed to the significant increase in intra-regional and extra-ASEAN trade. Intra-ASEAN trade in 2008 was US$453 billion or 26.7% of ASEAN’s external trade. Ten years ago, intra- ASEAN trade was only US$120 billion. In 2008, ASEAN’s global trade exceeded the trillion dollar mark at US$1.69 trillion.
ASEAN has also remained an attractive destination for FDI despite global challenges. ASEAN as a region has attracted investments totaling US$184.6 billion over the period 2006-2008. Internally, ASEAN is close to full integration through AFTA. A favourable environment for cross-border investment has been created by the establishment of the ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement, which provides for clear timelines for investment liberalisation and benefits extended to foreign-owned ASEAN-based investors. While efforts to realise the ASEAN Economic Community and the full implementation of the various FTAs are on-going, Y.B. Dato’ Mustapa Mohamed reiterated on the need for ASEAN to now consider bold measures that will take ASEAN to the next level of deeper economic integration so as to:
? propel ASEAN to the forefront of the global trading environment;
? facilitate ASEAN’s engagement with major trading partners in future FTAs
with ASEAN driving the process; and
? promote ASEAN’s equitable development among all its members so that ASEAN can move forward as one single entity.
The Minister added that enhanced economic integration is essential for promoting growth, creating employment and overall economic stability as well as attracting more investments into the region.