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 27 Aug 2008

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Asean Economic Ministers Meeting:
Malaysian minister suggests roadshow to woo investment

Asean can embark on a roadshow as a region to woo investments and enhance its potential as an investment hub, government news agency Bernama quoted Malaysia’s International Trade and Industry Minister Muhyiddin Yassin assaying Tuesday.

The minister said a proposal was made at the Asean Economic Ministers meeting for Asean to launch a roadshow to attract investments and collectively disseminate information within the region.

"There is a lot of initiative to be taken to disseminate information on a collective basis within Asean countries besides explaining what Asean nations are trying to do to improve on its infrastructures and logistics," he told Malaysian journalists on the sidelines of the meeting.

Muhyiddin said while China seemed to be securing a bigger portion of the investments compared to Asean, the grouping's economy still had great potential, with its abundant resources and capacity.

"More need to be done to boost its attractiveness as an investment hub," he said.

To ensure less impediments in trade within the Asean region, he said, initiatives are being taken at national level between ministries, government agencies and the private sector to push for greater liberalisation in trade.

"We want to push harder to take necessary steps to ensure the timeframe set by the heads of government in achieving the Asean Economic Community by 2015 will be achieved," he said.

On declining trade figures in the region, partcularly for Malaysia, the minister said that while there may be a slowdown in trade figures with US, trade within the Asean region and with China, Japan and Australia has been on the rise. This is due to proactive measures taken, which includes partnership arrangements and free trade agreements.

"Things are still bullish. While commodity prices are slightly lower than before, it is still on a positive note and the consumption level is quite positive," he added.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the ministers’ meeting in Singapore, the city-state’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that while Asean continues to integrate and liberalise its economies, the ministers should also continue to push for multilateral trade liberalisation and guard against backsliding and resorting to protectionist pressures.

To help the 10-member bloc meet that target, the Asean Economic Community Scorecard has been developed, and it will keep the leaders informed of what has been done.

"To be a credible organisation, we must match words with actions," said Lee. "The Scorecard will thus be a useful tool. It will enable us to monitor our implementation efforts, engage users through a feedback mechanism, and address issues that may cause delays."

Total foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows to Asean exceeded $60 billion in 2007, the group claimed, noting that China received $83 billion worth of FDI during the same period.

Lee said Asean would stand a better chance at attracting investments collectively instead of as individual economies because as a 10-member bloc, it represents a market of 550 million people with a gross regional product and total trade of over $1 trillion.

At the meeting Tuesday, the ministers also pledged to work for the speedy ratification of an economic partnership agreement with Japan. Association of Southeast Asian Nations ministers "resolved to ratify the Asean-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership as soon as possible," they said in a joint statement.

Japan had earlier ratified the pact, the core of which is a free trade agreement covering goods and services.

Singapore has already agreed but it was still unclear which other Asean states have done so.

Under the deal, about 90 percent of trade between Asia's largest economy and the 10-nation Asean, which has a combined population of 550 million, will be tariff-free within 10 years.

Note: The Asean Secretariat has a webpage on The highlights on the Asean Comprehensive Investment Agreement (ACIA) []




















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