ASEAN Economic Ministers endorsed a proposal by Cambodia for ‘priority economic deliverables’ during the 28th ASEAN Economic Ministers’ (AEM) Retreat held via video conferencing on Wednesday, according to a statement by the Ministry of Finance and Economy (MoFE).
Cambodia’s proposal is divided into four strategic thrusts: enhancing digital connectivity, science and technology; narrowing the development gap for ASEAN’s competitiveness; promoting a more integrated, inclusive, resilient and competitive ASEAN; and strengthening global ASEAN for growth and development, said the MoFE.
Meanwhile, the ASEAN Secretariat also shared the region’s economic outlook where gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to grow by 2.9 per cent in 2021 and between 5.1-5.8 per cent for 2022.
The meeting noted that several ASEAN member states will soon re-open borders and shift towards endemic stage policies of handling the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ministers reaffirmed the need for continued close cooperation for supply chain resilience and enhanced cross-sectoral collaboration on areas of digitalisation and sustainability, particularly through regional initiatives undertaken through the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework (ACRF), Bandar Seri Begawan Roadmap on Digital Transformation of ASEAN (BSBR) and Expansion of the List of Essential Goods under the memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the Implementation of Non-Tariff Measures on Essential Goods under the Hanoi Plan of Action.
The meeting also called for the acceleration of the implementation of the ASEAN Travel Corridor Arrangement Framework (ATCAF) which can further facilitate the resumption of travel across borders.
The meeting also discussed the latest status of ASEAN’s free trade agreements (FTAs).
Notably, the meeting launched the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA) upgrade negotiation, with the objective to promote deeper and wider economic integration in the region, provide conducive environment for growth and development as well as facilitate trade.
ASEAN member states also reaffirmed commitment for the ongoing upgrade of the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand FTA (AANZFTA) to ensure that the agreement remains at a high-standard, relevant and fit-for-purpose in response to COVID-19.
The meeting also provided an opportunity for ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ASEAN-BAC) to have a consultation with ASEAN economic ministers. Ministers were briefed on the priorities and initiatives of ASEAN-BAC members including the latest development of Brunei Darussalam’s legacy projects titled ‘Harnessing Impact with Resilient Employability Digitally (HIRED)’ and ‘ASEAN Digital Gateway and Travel Wallet’, which was presented by Legislative Council member Yang Berhormat Siti Rozaimeriyanty binti Dato Seri Laila Jasa Haji Abdul Rahman and Haslina binti Haji Mohd Taib.
The meeting was attended by Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Finance and Economy II Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew bin Abdullah, and other economic ministers from ASEAN member states and was chaired by Cambodian Minister of Commerce Pan Sorasak.
Also in attendence was the ASEAN Secretary-General Dato Paduka Lim Jock Hoi.
The 28th AEM Retreat was preceded by the Preparatory Senior Economic Officials Meeting (Prep-SEOM) on March 15.
The meeting was attended by Permanent Secretary (Economy) at MoFE Dr Hajah May Fa’ezah binti Haji Ahmad Ariffin.