KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has asked for the cooperation of Asean members to make this era an “Asean Century”.
Stressing that it was Asean’s time to become an influential economic global player, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak (pic) said it was crucial for the regional grouping to continue with measures to set up the Asean Economic Community.
“This is Asean’s time. And that is why we must remove barriers to trade, accelerate programmes to harmonise standards, increase capital market and financial integration and promote freer movement of goods, services and investments between our countries.
“The results of such reforms would be transformative,” he said in his speech at the Asean Summit here.
Malaysia is this year’s chairman of Asean, the fourth time it has held the post since the inception of the regional bloc in 1967.
Najib said the potential growth for Asean, where intra-Asean trade was estimated to grow from 24% to 40%, would mean astonishing improvements to economies and the standards of living of its citizens.
“Our potential, after all, is huge. We already have the third largest workforce in the world and a largely youthful, talented and increasingly skilled population of 600 million people. International trade has almost tripled in the last 10 years and we are now the fourth largest exporting bloc globally.
“Let me repeat: this is Asean’s time, right here, right now. Let us work together to ensure that the Asian Century is also the Asean Century,” he said.
The Prime Minister also stressed the need for Asean to become – and to be seen to become – more politically cohesive.
Asean could still position itself as the “third force” in the region although global investors had long been drawn to India and China, he said.
“A more visible unity will help us to do so. One proposal would be if we adopt a common time zone throughout Asean. This could be a good symbol of Asean unity and good for business,” said Najib.