JEJU ISLAND: Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who described the signing of the Asean-Korea Investment Agreement which will take place here on Tuesday, as a significant step for both Asean and Korea, today highlighted three key measures that would strengthen cooperation within the framework of Asean-Korea relations and the East Asian region.
The prime minister said that first, there was a need to intensify collaboration and raise the level of cooperation to capitalise on the new strategic partnership.
Second, there is sound basis to look beyond Asean and Korea, and identify measures to enhance East Asian cooperation and third, both Asean and Korea must work together to involve other emerging economies in Asia in the regional integration process for the wider benefit of Asia and the global trading system, he said.
Najib, who is also finance minister, said this in his keynote address at the closing session of the Asean-Korea CEO Business Summit at the International Convention Centre (ICC) Jeju, here today.
On Asean-Korea economic relations, Najib said that both sides had undertaken various initiatives and created the necessary institutional support to facilitate and forge closer bilateral ties.
“Given the increasingly competitive environment in which we currently operate,we as governments, should do our part to make it easier for goods to move across borders,” he said.
Najib said that much had been done to support and facilitate the growth of the Asean-Korea relationship over the past 20 years and the signing of the Asean-Korea Investment Agreement on Tuesday, would complete the Asean-Korea Framework Agreement for Economic Cooperation.
He said that through the Asean-Korea Framework Agreement, both sides were creating a transparent, liberal and facilitative trade and investment regime.
“Next year, we will see a freer flow of trade in goods, as Asean and Korea remove import duties on a substantial number of products.
“This is a significant step that both Asean and Korea are embarking on and the private sector should not let the opportunity slip away as governments work towards the goal of creating a conducive business environment,” he said.
Najib also pointed out that more needed to be done at the level of the private sector, as there appeared to be a lack of intensity, in the engagement of the business communities in Asean and Korea.
“I thus call on the private sector to move fast to realise the potential and make use of the opportunities that can accrue from this relationship. Much depends on the private sector to ensure that the objectives of the Asean-Korea Framework Agreement for Economic Cooperation are realised.
“Ultimately, it is the business community which will bring to fruition the initiatives of governments,” he said.
Najib also said that the time was now appropriate for taking the Asean Plus One cooperation and integration to a higher level as there was basis for Asean, Korea and other East Asian countries to do this.
He said the present financial and economic crisis as well as the lessons learnt from the 1997 Asian financial crisis reinforced the position that deepening East Asian economic and financial cooperation was no longer an option but an imperative.
“Today, under the Chiang Mai Initiative a US$120 billion (RM417.6 billion) fund for swap arrangements has been created to assist countries in difficulties,”Â he said.
Najib said that he was of the view that the current global crisis presented an opportunity for countries in this region to work towards strengthening East Asian economic integration and study the underlying factors contributing to the level of impact of the current crisis.
“Lessons learnt can contribute to a strong and dynamic East Asian region which will provide economic growth not only for it but also act as a catalyst for global economic growth as well.
“We have to strengthen the economic resilience of East Asia. We must build on the Asean Plus One cooperation to enhance collaboration among the East Asian countries,” he said.
Najib also said that while the immediate priority was to intensify cooperation within the East Asian region, they also needed to be mindful of the emergence of other countries, particularly in Asia that could complement East Asian economic integration and open up new areas of opportunities.
He also proposed the establishment of a defined mechanism which would allow the private sector to provide feedback on impediments that constrained their efforts to expand trade and investment flow between Asean and Korea.
“Without such feedback from the private sector, it will be difficult for governments to continue to make improvements to create facilitative and conducive business environments, so critically necessary for the regional economic integration that we envisage,” he said.
The CEO Summit, organised by the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry on the sidelines of the Asean-Republic of Korea Commemorative Summit, was attended by business leaders.
Source : Bernama