ASEAN economic integration seen to drive inclusive growth

A grand parade caps the close of the ASEAN Ministers Meeting and marks the 50th anniversary of ASEAN on Tuesday (Aug. 8, 2017). PNA PHOTO

MANILA – Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states have vowed to promote their economic integration agenda which can drive inclusive growth and reduce development gaps in the region, despite criticism by civil society groups that the bloc’s 50-year record had shown mostly “exclusionary” progress.

“We will continue our initiatives to provide greater opportunities for our peoples and to narrow the development gaps in ASEAN,” said an ASEAN Leaders’ Declaration on the 50th anniversary of ASEAN released on Tuesday.

They said the region will foster the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) towards its vision of an economy that is highly integrated, competitive, innovative, dynamic and inclusive, with enhanced connectivity and integration with the global economy.

“ASEAN values the benefits of opening and strengthening economic ties that have promoted economic growth across Southeast Asia,” noted the ASEAN leaders.

They will also support entrepreneurship and the role of science, technology and innovation as the region’s industries and enterprises, particularly micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), integrate into the global value chains.

“We will implement our commitments under the multilateral trading system and in various free trade arrangements,” they added.

ASEAN leaders will continue strengthening the regional bloc and its institutions and mechanisms.
“As a model of regionalism, we are determined to further develop ASEAN’s capacity to fulfill its commitments and responsibilities as a major global player,” they said.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of ASEAN.

ASEAN leaders also committed to improve the quality of life of their citizens, as they recognized them as the “greatest resource and asset of our region”.

“We will promote people-to-people exchanges. We will consolidate our socio-cultural initiatives and opportunities to collectively deliver and fully realize human development and sustainable development,” they said.

Likewise, ASEAN vowed to continue promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, equitable access to opportunities and poverty eradication.