More than 300 leaders of top businesses from across the ASEAN region converged at the ASEAN Business Club (ABC) Forum 2014 in Singapore on September 8 and 9 to tackle trade and industry issues and support the implementation of one ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).
A critical consideration deriving from the forum was the readiness of governments and ASEAN member states for an integrated economic region under the AEC and the role that ASEAN business leaders can play to accelerate relevant efforts and harness ASEAN’s potential, the ABC said Friday in a press release.
ASEAN is a ten-member bloc which includes such Southeast Asian countries as Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam.
ABC Forum Chairman Tan Sri Tony Fernandes stressed the importance of co-operation between the public sector and businesses in the region as well as a stronger ASEAN secretariat in order to capitalize on the bloc’s progress.
“We need to help the lawmakers facilitate businesses and not impede their growth,” he said in the opening speech.
Singaporean Minister of Trade and Industry Lim Hng Kiang emphasized the need for eliminating non-tariff barriers as an essential element of a prosperous and fully integrated ASEAN community.
Dr. Kan Zaw, Union Minister for National Planning and Economic Development of Myanmar, also underlined the significance of the private sector’s role.
“As the engine of economic growth, businesses are well-positioned to provide important feedback to policymakers on the effectiveness of our interventions,” Dr. Kan Zaw said.
The two-day forum also analyzed the current trade barriers and bottlenecks impeding an integrated market during six Lifting-The-Barriers Roundtables. The discussion points stemming from the forum will be incorporated into Lifting-The-Barriers reports, which will be submitted to the relevant ASEAN policy bodies.
“We need to take stock of and tackle the non-tariff barriers, which are the real inhibitors of ASEAN integration and submit to the governments, in particular Malaysia – the Chair of ASEAN 2015,” said Dato’ Sri Nazir Razak, chairman of CIMB Group, a universal bank headquartered in Kuala Lumpur.
In conclusion, Tan Sri Dr. Munir Majid, chairman of the CIMB ASEAN Research Institute, said there is a need for forming a specialist industry group to push forward greater ASEAN economic integration.
The forum also saw the debut of Idea Capsules, featuring eight innovative talks focusing on emerging startups from around the region and beyond. This is a new addition to the ABC Forum and underlined the importance of startups as well as small and medium enterprises on the ASEAN agenda.
Speaking at the ABC 4th Annual Gala Dinner held alongside the forum, U.S. Ambassador to Singapore Kirk Wagar mentioned the U.S.’s continued and significant contribution and support to the ASEAN integration agenda.
The forum was organized by the ASEAN Business Club and the CIMB ASEAN Research Institute, a public organization committed to the development of the ASEAN Economic Community and which serves as the secretariat of the ASEAN Business Club.