VIENTIANE: In the aftermath of Brexit, economic growth in ASEAN countries expected to dip to 4.5 percent in 2016 from 4.7 percent last year due to slowdown in China’s economy and uncertainties related to Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, the member countries jointly stated in an annual chairmanship conference.
The economic ministers meeting in Laos, which holds the ASEAN chairmanship this year, jointly said that growth in the 10-nation group’s $2.4 trillion economy should recover to 4.7 percent next year due to “strong private and public consumption and improved efficiency in infrastructure.”
The statement added, “The region is exposed to continued moderation in the Chinese economy, to uncertainties over the new relationship between the UK and the EU after Brexit.” It also said that the ASEAN remained committed to further integration.
Import duties on 99.2 percent of tariffs in Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand and 90.9 per cent in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam have been eliminated, the ministers said on the integration progress. About a quarter of the group’s total trade of $2.3 trillion is intra-ASEAN. China is ASEAN’s top external partner, with 15 per cent of the total, followed by Japan, the EU and the United States.
The member countries also said that they aim to harmonise the economic strategies, recognise each other’s professional qualifications, improve custom clearance and intellectual property rules, and close the development gap between the poorer members – Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar – and the rest of the region.
They also agreed to enhance the connectivity of their transportation infrastructure and communications, better facilitate electronic transactions, integrate industries to promote regional sourcing, and enhance private-sector involvement in the economy.
ASEAN’s closer economic integration is considered a major step forward from what has been considered since the earliest days of its existence as a political project for peaceful regional relations.
A joint report by AmCham Singapore and the US Chamber of Commerce published on Thursday showed that 53 per cent of the US companies thought that ASEAN had become more important in terms of worldwide revenue in the past two years. About two thirds said that it would become even more important in the next two years.
Vietnam, Indonesia and Myanmar were the top destinations for the US companies’ expansion plans within the region, with Singapore, Laos and Brunei the least preferred. Corruption, transparency and good governance remained key challenges for the regional outlook, the report added.
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