The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) concluded on Saturday that it would accelerate its progress to become an integrated economy in a move prompted by the global economic slowdown.
Trade ministers from member states at the two-day ASEAN Economic Council retreat said their priority is set to achieving three tasks this year to consolidate forces within the region, widen ASEAN's engagement with existing dialogue partners and seek ASEAN's role in engaging with and responding to global issues.
"We all shared the perspective that the slowdown in the world economy will impact our exports and how it would affect our growth. It was quite variable in a sense that those countries that have higher percentage of exposure to Europe and the U.S. obviously have more of an impact," said Mari Elka Pangestu, the trade minister of Indonesia, the country which currently chairs ASEAN.
"The context of us accelerating integration is exactly that. We have agreed to anticipate and respond to the slowdown in the global economy situation that is likely not to be happening only next year but it could last for a few years," she told the press after discussions.
The bloc is determined to form the ASEAN Economic Community for all 10 member states to be an integrated single market by 2015.
Last year, trade among ASEAN members only accounted for 25 percent of the 2.1 trillion U.S. dollars total trade achieved in the region.
Ministers at the retreat addressed the urgency to hike the figure although they have not set a target.
Among other measures discussed were the call for a greater transparency among member states and the removal of non-tariff measures to ease the integration progress, and to produce frameworks that would expand the engagement with existing and future dialogue partners.
They have also addressed proposals by dialogue partners, China and Japan, details of which they said would be conveyed to the two countries in November when the ASEAN summit is held.