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December 16,2008

Asean Summit scheduled for February in Thailand
Trade liberalisation agreement to be signed in Singapore today

Foreign ministers, meanwhile agreed the postponed Asean summit to be held from February 24 to 26, reported Reuters.

Asean Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan said it will probably be held in Bangkok. "To get 16 leaders - 10 from Asean countries and six others from China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India - together is very difficult because each leader has his own schedule. But we all agreed on next February," said Surin.

Prime Minister-elect Abhisit Vejjajiva indicated that Chiang Mai, chosen by the previous government to host the postponed summit, would not be in the running as a venue.

"There will be a lot of problems if we hold the meeting in Chiang Mai," he said in Bangkok.

Chiang Mai is a stronghold of the former government and of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Thailand assured Asean members of its readiness to host the summit during an Asean dinner in Jakarta on Sunday, prior to yesterday's ceremony marking the passing into force of the Asean Charter.

All member countries now had a better understanding of Thailand's situation and were satisfied with the confirmation of the meeting, said acting Information and Communications Technology Minister Mun Patanotai, who represented Thailand at the celebration.

Mun said he would request the new government give a high priority to the February summit.

Foreign affairs permanent secretary Virasakdi Futrakul said Singapore's Foreign Minister, George Yeo, told him that Thailand should hold the meeting sooner because the economic situation was deteriorating.

In a related story, Indonesian news agency Antara reported that the economics ministers of the Asean will meet in Singapore on December 16 and sign an agreement on the liberalisation of trade of goods and service, and investment to reach the Asean Economic Community (AEC) in 2015.

"The main agenda of the meeting is the signing of several agreements and important treaties as implementation of the AEC blue print," Trade Minister Mari Elka Pangestu was quoted as saying in Jakarta Monday.

The Asean trade agreement, Pangestu said, is a collection of the trade agreements including on the reduction and elimination of tariffs and non-tariffs toward 2010.

"The agreement also covers the revision of the rules on origin and the implementation of trade facility agenda, one of which is the National Single Window," she said.

The Asean countries also agreed to reduce obstacles to investment 2010 to three phases as set in the Asean Comprehensive Investment Agreement (ACIA). ACIA is a revision and compilation of Asean Investment Agreements and International Guarantee Agreements.

To increase the liberalisation in 6 percent service sub-sectors with the directed schedules, the framework of the 7th Asean service trade agreement will be signed.

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