‘AEC is catalyst to single market’
KUALA LUMPUR: The launch of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) on Dec 31 will be the catalyst to create a single market and production base in the region, says International Trade and Industry Ministry (Miti) secretary-general Datuk Dr Rebecca Fatima Sta Maria.
She said Asean had a lot more to do before becoming a truly integrated economic region.
“Asean economic integration will not end when we announce the AEC at the end of the year because what we have achieved so far is just the tip of the iceberg.
“We now need to dive deeper to tackle the issues beneath,” she said at a dialogue session titled “Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) as an Economic Power in Asean”.
The dialogue is part of the three-day Asean SME Conference and Showcase 2015 which opened on Tuesday.
Sta Maria said equity restrictions, cumbersome trade procedures and the movement of skilled workers were thorny issues that Asean must tackle after rolling out the AEC.
She described SMEs as the backbone of Asean’s economic growth as they made up 96% of businesses in the region.
In Malaysia, SMEs employ 57.5% of the country’s workforce and generated a third of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.
Sta Maria said SMEs must step up their game to benefit from the many new opportunities for them to expand in a more integrated Asean.
“We also need to look at how to better integrate them as vendors to bigger companies and help them secure bigger market access so they can grow sustainably.”
She said a post-2015 Asean Strategic Action Plan for SMEs was expected to be endorsed in August during the Asean Economic Minister’s meeting.
The plan is set to be launched at the 27th Asean Summit in November which Kuala Lumpur will be hosting.Source: The Star Online