Siem Reap is home to the world’s biggest Hindu temple complex – the  Angkor Wat – which sits proudly in the centre of the Cambodian flag. This week, the city will take a little break from history, as Cambodia host the ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting.

“If you look at the partners attending the AEM, you will realize that some of the most important economic powers are here. ASEAN is already a collection of 10 robust, promising economies. Together with China, India, the United States, Russia, South Korea, Japan, etc, you have the world’s biggest consumer markets, the world’s leading R & D bases, the world’s leading sources of raw materials, as well as the world’s richest sources for investment,” said Dr Surin Pitsuwan, Secretary-General of ASEAN.

“The message may not be totally new, but the fact remains that economic uncertainties hovering around the world, many will be watching here for answers. We may not be able to save the world single-handedly, but if we are able to maintain healthy robust growth in ASEAN and the Asia-Pacific, we will help to hold the ship together. We will provide the lead time for Europe to get back on its feet,” he added.

Pointing out the need to stay focused, and to keep faith with open markets, Deputy Secretary-General Lim Hong Hin from the ASEAN Economic Pillar, cautioned against the emergence of protectionism.

“As of 2011, ASEAN’s intra-trade had accounted for a quarter of our total trade. If you add our trade with key partners like China, Japan, the EU and the US, you are looking at a very important cornerstone of our healthy economic growth. That growth has helped to raise the living standards of many of our peoples, but there are many more who are waiting for their turn to enjoy the fruits of economic development. We cannot afford to fail them,” said DSG Lim.

The week-long meetings will bring together the economic ministers of the 10 ASEAN Member States of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The ministers will hold dialogue with partners like China, South Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, India, the United States, Canada and Russia.

In an earlier interview with the Phnom Penh Post, Cambodia’s Senior Minister and Minister of Commerce, HE Cham Prasidh, said that Phnom Penh will push forward with plans to reduce the development gap among ASEAN member states during Cambodia’s chairmanship of ASEAN this year.

Narrowing the development gap is one of the main objectives of the ASEAN Economic Community. Earlier efforts by the grouping, combined with the positive investment climate in Asia, had helped boost Southeast Asia as one of the fastest growing areas in the world. This in turn, has raised the optimism of turning ASEAN into a single market, and a single manufacturing base.

To see the pictures from the 44th ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) Meeting and Related Meetings, please click here. We will update the pictures daily during the AEM.