Kuala Lumpur, Nov 21 (IANS) Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak here on Saturday said the Association of Southeast Asian Nations has brought “immense practical benefits” to its people.
Addressing the opening ceremony of the 27th Asean Summit, Najib said in the economic front the bloc has made a direct financial difference to hundreds of millions, Xinhua reported.
The Asean Free Trade Area (AFTA) has reduced tariffs to zero or near zero, said the prime minster whose country hosts the summit this year.
“This has reduced the prices of countless goods, and means our citizens have more money to spend on their families. Without AFTA, our firms would find it harder to access each other’s markets.”
Without Asean the unemployment in the region will be higher, said Najib. “The overall rate among our 10 nations is a comparatively three percent low, which economists attribute not just to countries, but to Asean attracting substantial flow of foreign direct investment.”
With Asean, the people in the region have enjoyed visa-free travel through nine out of the 10 member states and the professionals found it more easier to work in each other’s countries, Najib noted.
With further liberation and integration in the region, it is estimated that the measures being implemented under the Asean economic community will raise the overall GDP by seven percent by 2025 that will be a gain for the economies, Najib said.
In his opening speech, Najib also mentioned the “Asean Way”, stressing the importance of resolving disputes through peaceful means.
The two-day 27th Asean Summit is themed “Our People, Our Community, Our vision”.
Founded in 1967, Asean groups Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. It aims to accelerate economic growth, social progress and socio-cultural evolution among its members.