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ASEAN takes crucial part of growth center
By Mong Binh - The Saigon Times Daily
Tuesday,  Jun 8, 2010,21:58 (GMT+7)

ASEAN takes crucial part of growth center

By Mong Binh - The Saigon Times Daily

Indonesian Trade Minister Mari Elka Pangestu (R) talks to participants after the closing plenary of the World Economic Forum on East Asia in HCMC on Monday - Photo: Mong Binh
HCMC - The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) is making an increasing important contribution to Asia, a region that the Indonesian Minister of Trade describes as a center of growth and gravity.

Vị trí đặt quảng cáo“China and India are obviously very much on the radar… I think ASEAN should be the third growth center of Asia,” Mari Elka Pangestu told the closing ceremony of the World Economic Forum on East Asia in HCMC on Monday.

Pangestu said increasing integration in terms of trade and investment, tariff reduction and breaks, expansion of trade and population were making ASEAN an attractive market for major countries such as America, Europe, China and India.

As of 2010, 99% of the tariffs in the region have been already lifted, facilitating trade liberalization in the region and with countries like China, India, Australia and New Zealand less than five years before the region becomes an ASEAN Economic Community as the member nations are trying to achieve.

Pangestu said stepping up trade and the integration of ASEAN required institutional reforms and sound solutions to cross-border issues, which also took much time of the “Connectivity Conundrum” session on Monday morning.

Pascal Lamy, director general of the World Trade Organization (WTO), said trade liberalization would be one of the drivers for growth, employment generation and infrastructure development, and Asia was a good example for this.

“Looking at this region, one sees very good examples of trade opening leading to growth, and its is obvious that the numbers are there,” Lamy said. “The countries that were the most open have been doing better during the crisis than the countries that were less open.”

Despite various stages of economic development of nations, the region has exemplified the importance of trade capacity building, which Lamy said would help make a big difference. He took Vietnam as an example of improving trade capacity, particularly food hygiene.

“This country, Vietnam did a lot in trying to upgrade capacity to match sanitation standards on seafood, fruits and vegetables… Moving in this direction and investing in this are just as crucial as infrastructure development,” Lamy said at the closing plenary.

The last session of the two-day forum also touched on the need for Asia’s leaders to take a bigger role in a global financial architecture, international trade and other world affairs that may affect the region.

Asia has recovered from the global economic crisis and is now growing well, but speakers agreed the region was still vulnerable to global risks.

“We talk about the shift of economic gravity towards Asia, but with greater economic reputation should come greater responsibility,” the Indonesian Trade Minister said.

As six members of the G20 come from East Asia, trade and other issues that matter most to developing countries and the region should be on the table at meetings of the G20, which includes Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan and Korea.

Asia will enhance its presence at the G20 summit taking place later this year in Korea when this major event is attended by Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, who is chair of ASEAN in 2010.

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