Leaders meet to discuss ASEAN Community by 2015

Amidst the backdrop of global economic uncertainty, leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) met here Wednesday to review the progress towards an ASEAN Community by 2015, leading to a freer flow of goods, services and investments in the region.

Bandar Seri Begawan (Brunei): Amidst the backdrop of global economic uncertainty, leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) met here Wednesday to review the progress towards an ASEAN Community by 2015, leading to a freer flow of goods, services and investments in the region.

"The ASEAN countries should ensure the region`s financial stability as well as be an effective and competitive destination for trade and investment," Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah said in his opening remarks to the 23rd ASEAN Summit..

He said the outlook for the ASEAN region remained promising, but acknowledged that the ASEAN members still faced challenges in implementing their community roadmap. ASEAN has been struggling to align key infrastructure, trade and policy frameworks to meet the 2015 deadline.

The 23rd summit will also see the handing over of ASEAN chairmanship to Myanmar, which will assume leadership of the regional bloc for the first time on Jan. 1, 2014.

The leaders will discuss ways to consolidate the achievements in order to meet the 2015 target of having an economically integrated, politically cohesive and socially responsible ASEAN Community. The Brunei sultan urged the ASEAN countries to work together in areas such as trade facilitation and logistics to promote business environment in the region.

On Thursday, leaders will be joined by their dialogue partners from eight other countries, including India, to discuss wide-ranging cooperation in the political-security, economic and socio-cultural spheres. They will discuss ways and means of overcoming maritime disputes, which many fear could spark fresh tensions and may be Asia`s next major conflict.

China and Taiwan claim the resource-rich waters of the South China Sea and its chains of islands, islets and reefs. ASEAN members Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam lay claim to some parts.

ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

IANS