Jakarta, 22 August 2011

The Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN for ASEAN Economic Community (DSG), H.E. Mr. S. Pushpanathan together with Mr. Gusmardi Bustami, SEOM Chair and Director-General, International Trade Cooperation, Ministry of Trade, Indonesia, gave a briefing to the Diplomatic Community on the outcomes of the Post-43rd AEM Meeting and Related Meetings, which was convened on 9-14 August 2011 in Manado, Indonesia.

Mr. Gusmardi in his Opening Remarks provided a general assessment of the Meetings at Manado and made three main observations vis-à-vis, first, Ministers shared the view and sentiment that ASEAN must stay on its course toward the ASEAN Economic Community; second, both ASEAN and Dialogue Partners shared the view that the uncertainties in global economy only underscored the importance of deepening further the economic integration amongst ASEAN and the Dialogue Partners; and third, there is a continued convergence of views among ASEAN Member States and between ASEAN and its Dialogue Partners to deepen the integration process and ensure the SMEs fairly benefit from the process. He further reiterated that the future of ASEAN for an equitable economic development depends on enhancing the SMEs in the region, “deepening the integration process and assisting the SMEs is about getting more and more of our stakeholders taking part in the region’s economic activities and expanding the benefits of our work to the whole spectrum of businesses”.

Mr. S. Pushpanathan elaborated on three main areas in his detailed presentation: the ASEAN Economic performance; the highlights of 43rd AEM and its Related Meetings; and the deliverables for 19th ASEAN Summit. ASEAN as a whole has matured as both export and domestic demand fueled growth to expand by 7.5 percent last year. Intra-ASEAN trade and investment flows have shown an upward momentum and are likely to support its 2011 domestic growth, which is estimated between 5.7 and 6.4 percent.

ASEAN has maintained its allure as an attractive foreign direct investment (FDI) destination. FDI into ASEAN reached US$ 75.8 billion last year, doubling the 2009 level, and surpassing the pre-global crisis peak in 2007 of US$ 75.7 billion. FDI flows in ASEAN over the last ten years have grown at an annual average rate of 19 per cent.

The week-long Economic Meetings in Manado started with the annual meetings of the 25th ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) Council and the 14th ASEAN Investment Area (AIA) Council. Following this the 43rd AEM Meeting was held and subsequently, the Ministers had consultations with the relevant counterparts from eight of ASEAN’s ten Dialogue Partners, namely, Australia and New Zealand, China, India, Japan, Republic of Korea, Russia, and the United States. The Ministers also held collective discussions with the Plus Three countries comprising China, Japan, and Republic of Korea, and the East Asia Summit (EAS) participating countries, additionally Australia-New Zealand and India.

The 13th ASEAN Mekong Basin Development Cooperation (AMBDC), the 3rd Mekong-Japan Economic Ministers Meeting, and the 3rd CLMV Economic Ministers Meeting were also held to discuss greater cooperation in ASEAN and sub-regions.

DSG Pushpanathan in addition to sharing the outcomes of these Meetings also provided the future outlook for ASEAN on in terms of the evolving regional architecture and in maintaining ASEAN centrality, importance of equitable economic development for sustainable economic development and in developing a Vision Beyond 2015. He informed that in line with this year’s theme, ‘ASEAN Community in a Global Community of Nations’, “ASEAN will have to move quickly in all these areas in order to set the pace and tone for the future of ASEAN in leading the integration of the East Asia Region”.

In addition to these Meetings, the inaugural ASEAN Trade Facilitation Forum was held at the sidelines where the representatives from ASEAN businesses sector engaged in a direct dialogue with the Economic Ministers to raise their views on ways to improve trade facilitation in ASEAN.