Manila, Sep 7 (IANS) Economic ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) began a four-day meeting here on Thursday to discuss ways on how to further strengthen economic ties and integrate trade and investment in the region.
“Our meeting this week is vital to the region’s messaging on the success of ASEAN as a bloc. We have achieved critical mass to take ASEAN higher as our economies are growing faster than most of the rest of the world,” said Philippine Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez at the opening ceremony of the 49th ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Meeting.
He said by 2050, the ASEAN economy is expected to amount to over $9.2 trillion, making it the fourth largest in the world.
In 2017 and beyond, he said ASEAN “should be cognizant of the changing geostrategic landscape that presents both opportunities and challenges”.
“As ASEAN economic ministers, we are gathered today to send a positive signal amid a backdrop of rising trade policy uncertainties,” Lopez said, stressing the need to reaffirm the importance of integrating ASEAN into the regional and global economy.
He said ASEAN will maintain an open and outward-oriented perspective through free trade agreements (FTAs) with India, Australia, China, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.
ASEAN also has cooperation mechanism with dialogue partners such as Canada, the European Union and the US.
As a formal community, the 10-nation ASEAN bloc wants to create more free movement of trade and capital in an area of 625 million people with a combined economic output of $2.6 trillion.
The Philippines holds the ASEAN rotating chairmanship this year.