"We are living with challenge and a bubble economy. Asean and East Asian countries are expected to enhance cooperation in economic, social and environmental spheres so that they will ensure stable growth," Surin Pitsuwan, secretary-general of Asean, said in a videoconference briefing yesterday.
Asean is moving towards the Asean Economic Community by 2015. The integration will be accomplished on target. All instruments necessary for achieving the integration including political, economic and socio-cultural have been adopted by Asean members, he said.
However, to ensure sustainable growth, trade among Asean countries should increase from 25 per cent at present to 30 per cent by 2015 and 40 per cent of total trade by 2020, Surin said.
After the development of infrastructure and trade facilitation, non-Asean enterprises are looking for increasing trade and investment opportunities in the region, driven by strong growth.
Asean enterprises should urgently enhance their competitiveness and infrastructure to ensure growth, he said.
Asean should increase intra-regional trade from only US$400 billion (Bt12 trillion), which is rather small compared with its trade with the world, which amounts to $1.7 trillion.
Each Asean member must cooperate by seriously liberalising its market, increasing connectivity and eliminating non-tariff barriers instead of competing against each other, he said. This will help boost trade in the region and achieve the single-market goal by 2015.
Asean and trade-partner countries should also strengthen cooperation on disaster relief, as many member states are facing natural crises and slowing growth because of the crunch.
Trade and investment among the six trading partner countries - China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand - should be increased, Surin said.
The role of small and medium-sized enterprises should also be developed, as SMEs are the important unit for strengthening trade and investment in the region, he added.