As ASEAN Integration Deadline Looms, Standardising Rules Yet To Be Achieved

AECBy Saiful Bahri Kamaruddin
Pix Shahiddan Saidi

KUALA LUMPUR, 22 May 2015 – The harmonisation of rules and regulations for the Asean Economic Community (AEC) in order to achieve economic integration is proving to be a challenge.

The challenge is because Asean is made up of 10 countries that can be divided into different tiers in terms of per capita income, population and economic development, said P. Ravindran, senior director of the ASEAN Economic Cooperation division at The Ministry of International Trade and Industry’s (MITI).

“Countries like Myanmar and Cambodia do not have strong standard institutions so they require time. They need capacity building programes to be put in place in terms of human resources. It (AEC) is consensus-based. We’ve to negotiate and agree,” Ravindran explained at the forum ASEAN Economic Community Forum organised by the National University of Malaysia (UKM) here today.

All ASEAN member states and the six nations integrated with the grouping must comply with the unified AEC requirements in order for a complete free trade area to be realised by the end of 2015.

Ravindran said ASEAN must have economic liberalisation if it wants to promote integration.

 “There must be political will, if you want this to happen. AEC will not achieve 100% target by the end of 2015. Will it achieve 90%, or 95%?

“For ASEAN to move forward, we have to have political will. There are still many domestic regulations that hinder intra-ASEAN investments and trade,” he clarified at the fifth and last session of the forum co-organised by UKM’s Institute of Malaysian and International Studies (IKMAS).

The AEC requires Asean member states to remove barriers to trade in goods, services, investments, movement of capital and labour (skilled); and harmonise technical standards, rules and regulations and other barriers at borders, including speedier Customs clearance of goods.

Earlier, at the opening of the forum UKM Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Industry and Community Partnership) Prof Dr Imran Ho Abdullah said the university had always supported intra-ASEAN cooperation and collaboration through its student mobility and exchange programmes.

He explained that UKM had signed many memorandum of understanding (MoU) and memorandum of Agreements with ASEAN institutions on carrying out community projects.

He cited the ASEAN Youth Development Project (AYDP) as an intra-ASEAN venture that had promoted better understanding among students in the region.

With a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of US$ 2.3 trillion, Prof Imran added that economic integration would be the best way for member states to move ahead.

Also present at the two-day forum which drew more than 50 participants from all over the region was IKMAS Director Prof Dr Rashila Ramli and Deputy-Director Prof Dr Tham Siew Yean.