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                                                                                                                           Asean Affairs   3 January 2013 


Singapore business delegation group photo at the ASEAN Business & Investment Summit 2012. (Photo courtesy of Mr. Alan Tan, Singapore Business Federation


AEC 2015 remains on Track and Top Priority

By Lena Ng

– Key Message from the 9th ASEAN Business & Investment SUMMIT (ASEAN-BIS) in Phnom Penh, 2012

“You have a really nice bag!” That was my first greetings from the Cambodian customs lady officer at Phnom Penh airport. I was pleasantly surprised by the good fashion sense and proper command of English she has. It was my very first trip to Phnom Penh, Cambodia on 16th November 2012. I was here to attend 9th ASEAN Business & Investment Summit (Asean-BIS).

We were all informed by the organizers weeks ago that the interest is particularly strong this year as ASEAN is nearing a key point in her history. Just two weeks before the summit, the organizers reported a record number of more than 1,000 participants from the business community. Kudos to the organiserAsean Business Advisory Council (ASEAN-BAC) and co-host, the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce for the success of the official side-event (ASEAN-BIS) to the Asean Leaders Summit and the East Asia Summit. The ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) 2015 is a focal point for companies throughout the world as ASEAN is fast growing into a key global marketplace with enormous impact and opportunities for the global economy.

As a business delegate from Singapore, I am keen to know what policies are being put in place, what the opportunities are, and how they can be explored. Besides gathering of key market updates, the importance of timely networking with fellow Singaporean business leaders and other international participants is the highlight for many delegates. The Singapore Business Federation (SBF) has also organized a business mission to Cambodia in conjunction to the summit. I managed to catch up with fellow Singaporeans including the Singapore business mission leader, Miss Low Sin Leng(Executive Chairman of SembCorp Development Ltd) and our Vice Chairman for the ASEAN-BAC, Mr. Robert Yap. They were both successful business leaders and yet took on additional roles at ASEAN level to facilitate business exchange between Singapore and other ASEAN countries. They had my utmost respect.

The Business Summit set the stage in highlighting the position of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) vis-a-vis the global community.Over the two days seminar, the organizer covered Opportunities and Challenges of expanding markets in East Asia; the potential for renewable energy in Asean; interAsean connectivity and infrastructure developments; how to create more opportunities for entrepreneurs and SMEs; the socialisation of the ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement (ACIA), and how to further promote good corporate governance in Asean.

The topics were well selected and there were many prominent speakers including Cham Prasidh, Cambodia Senior Minister and Minister of Commerce; Dr SurinPitsuwan, Secretary General of Asean; Gilles Plante, CEO Asia of ANZ Banking Group, and many more.

I find the session by the respective ASEAN Business Advisory Council (BAC) particularly interesting as the focus of the session seems to be encouraging ASEAN companies' investment into United States, Canada and Russia. The message is clear. Globally, there is fierce competition for investment dollars, resources and employment creation. So what will be ASEAN main priorities? Will it be ONE ASEAN market for foreign investment and enhanced trade linkages within ASEAN? Delegates from different countries have differing views on recent ASEAN initiatives. ASEAN is perceived by some critics as dragging her feet for integration and truly seeing the promise of one ASEAN. After the recent lesson taught by Eurozone crisis, it is no wonder why there are additional skepticism of ASEAN member countries in trade liberalization.

Dr SurinPitsuwan, Secretary-General of ASEAN reiterated at the Summit that “The ASEAN Economic Community 2015 remains on track and top priority!”The 44th ASEAN Economic Ministers and the 8th ASEAN Economic Community Council (AECC) meetings agreed to double efforts to achieve AEC by 2015. They agreed to prioritize the AEC measures and aim for realistic targets by 2015. Among the important measures to prioritize include initiatives to address non-tariff barriers, enhancing the efficiency of services liberalization, promoting the attractiveness of ASEAN as an integrated investment area and strengthening trade and investment facilitation.

After spending 15 years covering ASEAN countries, I believe the true ASEAN spirit calls for both respect and understanding of local market and regulatory constraints. ASEAN diplomacy and cooperation have long been characterized by pragmatism and consensus-based decision-making. The ‘ASEAN Way’ is based on ideals of non-interference in the internal affairs of member states, informality, minimal institutionalization, consultation and non-confrontation. ASEAN leaders have also taken steps to avoid creating a strong supra-national regional institution, and the ASEAN Secretariat serves as a diplomatic facilitator rather than an EU-type of agency. These characteristics underpinned the Association’s strength and durability over the last 45 years but also clearly explain their limitations in action and targets delivery.

When I was asked by some European counterparts on my views on AEC2015, I said my wish list remains SIMPLE.
Strategy –A coherent ASEAN strategy to attract both global investors and enhance trade linkages.
Intel–Timely market intelligence and updates on the key developments of AEC2015.
Manpower –A comprehensive ASEAN manpower capability development roadmap to address business needs.
Positioning–Strategic positioning of ASEAN as an FDI destination vis-?-vis China and India
Leadership–ASEAN potential in showing leadership in shaping international public policy.
Execution –A strategy without execution is pure hallucination. A good execution roadmap is key to success.

ASEAN is home, to me and many others. I believe there is keen motivation for ASEAN political and business leaders to work towards a good start forAEC2015.

Article is written by Miss Lena Ng, Executive Vice President of Korvac Holdings. If there is any feedback on the article, please send your feedback to her at

Profile of the writer: Lena NG, EVP of Korvac Holdingscurrently heads the Government Relations and International team tospearhead strategic initiatives with Central Banks, key Infocomm Ministries and partners in the region.

Prior to her appointment in Korvac Holdings, Ms Ng was a former Singapore Diplomat based in Thailand and Director (Infocomms& Technology) of IE Singapore, an agency under Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry. With more than 17 years of public policy, international relations and corporate advisory experience, Lena spearheaded international co-operation with key foreign government agencies and stakeholders to promote bilateral collaboration and assist Singapore companies to expand overseas. Lena holds a Bachelor of Business Administration (Honors) from National University of Singapore, Executive MBA, Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and Green Belt. Lena speaks fluent English, Mandarin, Thai and basic Korean.



















Photo: Ms Lena Ng, EVP of Korvac Holdings and NeakOknha Kith Meng, President of Cambodia Chamer of Commerce

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

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