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|2 March 2010
Asean chief says single market drive on track
Asean secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan Sunday defended the bloc's efforts towards economic integration by 2015, saying progress is "on track" despite concerns aired at ministerial talks, reported AFP.
The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) has set 2015 as the target for the creation of a single regional economic market known as the Asean Economic Community.
"We are on track," Surin told a press conference after a one-day Asean economic ministers' retreat held in the Malaysian capital. "We are now talking about how to coordinate among ourselves to project our voice and to project our own profile to the world stage," the Asean chief said.
"All the remaining obstacles have been resolved. The deadline has been given and the member states have accepted the deadline, they will try their very best to get on with the works of all the major framework agreements," he said.
Surin's comment came after Malaysia urged members to comply with their commitments "on a timely basis" and voiced concern that only four of the 11 priority integration sectors for accelerated integration have been achieved.
"Satisfactory progress has been only achieved in automotive, textiles, air travel and tourism sectors," Malaysia's Trade Minister Mustapa Mohamed said in statement issued after the talks concluded. "A lot more work needs to be done in the other sectors with the private sector taking the lead," he added.
Mustapa said that some member states faced obstacles in achieving the 2015 target but that the regional grouping had overall achieved an 85 percent mark on a scorecard to assess their progress for the 2015 goal.
"The obstacles are not really major. The shortcomings are not fundamental," he told the press conference, adding that the global economic crisis has "somewhat" impacted on economic integration.
"By and large, we have been successful. We are not 100 percent successful but it's quite successful," he told reporters.
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