Economic issues to dominate ASEAN summit

Updated: 2013-04-22 17:22


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BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN - Economic concerns are set to top the 22nd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit agenda hosted by Brunei, officials said on Monday.

Leaders of 10 ASEAN countries will gather on Wednesday to continue discussions on key economic and political issues in the Asia Pacific.

They are expected to push ahead with measures to meet the ASEAN integration target by 2015, which will be a main topic with the title of the summit being "Our People, Our Future Together."

ASEAN has only two more years to become a European Union-like community but has been struggling to align key infrastructure, trade and policy frameworks to achieve the deadline.

Leaders from Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar will head delegations that are expected to hold bilateral discussions along the side-lines of the summit.

Most of the meetings will focus on economic issues with Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines holding a special Summit on April 25 to promote regional trade, the official ASEAN itinerary said.

A separate meeting will also be held between Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand as ASEAN grapples with maintaining regional growth amid a challenging global environment.

Another highlight will be the formation of a growth triangle joining Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, which will be signed at the conclusion of the 22nd ASEAN summit.

Titled "Center for IMT" the aim of the agreement is to form a seamless, progressive and prosperous sub-region that will contribute to the realization of an ASEAN Economic Community by 2020.

To realize this vision, the IMT-GT aims to accelerate private sector-led economic growth and help facilitate the development of the sub-region as a whole. Its objective, as stated in the Roadmap for Development 2007-2011, is to increase regional trade and investment.

The triangle will cover 72 million people in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino is expected to raise the South China Sea issue, which is also deeply connected to economic concerns, despite it not being included in the official program.

Aquino will push for the implementation of the Declaration of the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and for the completion of a legally binding code of conduct.

"In the 22nd ASEAN Summit, the Philippines will continue to advocate maritime security and cooperation, to push for the full and effective implementation of the Declaration of the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, for the early conclusion of a substantive and legally binding Code of Conduct, and to review the ASEAN Charter with the objective of streamlining the work and meetings of ASEAN," Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Raul Hernandez said ahead of the summit.

Myanmar President Thein Sein's attendance will be anticipated as ASEAN will be hosted in 2014 by the fast-reforming nation.

During the last ASEAN summit in November, Thailand and Myanmar signed a joint agreement to move ahead with the multi-billion dollar Development of Dawei Special Economic Zone (DSEZ).