DAVOS (Bernama) – Malaysia sees integration of the regional banking system, harmonisation of standards and the creation of a single Asean time zone as important steps towards realising the Asean Economic Community (AEC).
As the Asean chair this year, Malaysia has led efforts to create a regional time zone to promote more efficient trade and investment activities in the 10 Asean member nations, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Senator Datuk Seri Abdul Wahid Omar.
He said the idea has been raised by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak in many discussions.
“We introduce the idea first before discussing in further detail. This (the proposal for an Asean time zone) needs further study,” he told Malaysian journalists on the sidelines of the 45th World Economic Forum here yesterday.
Wahid also stressed the need to expedite banking integration in Asean countries through the Asean Banking Framework.
“The signing of a heads of agreement between Bank Negara Malaysia and Bank Indonesia last year within the framework enables banks in both countries to hold or expand their activities in either country,” he said.
The agreement could spur similar efforts by other Asean nations in future, said Wahid, who also heads the Economic Planning Unit.
“We hope this could be implemented in other countries as the presence of regional banks could facilitate intra-Asean trade and investment,” he said.
Wahid said with the harmonisation of standards, companies in the region could operate in other Asean countries with issues such as standards, food and halal matters taken care of.
“Even if we cannot fully harmonise these issues, at least we can use a mutual recognition arrangement, to help expedite Asean economic integration,” he said.
The combined gross domestic product of Asean, which has a population of 620 million, is expected to hit $4 trillion by 2020.
Wahid said these issues were among those discussed when he represented the Prime Minister at a panel session titled ‘Creating the Asean Economic Community’ moderated by Channel News Asia Executive Editor and Presenter Teymoor Nabili.
Panel members included AirAsia Bhd Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Tan Sri Tony Fernandes, Serge Pun & Associates Chairman Serge Pun and Lippo Group CEO James T Riady.
Najib, who is also Finance Minister, had to leave proceedings at the WEF following the death of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Abdulaziz Al-Saud early on Friday morning.
Najib and his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor left for Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on a special flight from Zurich International Airport at noon on Friday to offer condolences and attend the funeral.