BANGKOK, June 23 (Bernama) – Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohammad said the 10-member ASEAN was not dormant, but playing an important role in boosting regional trade.
He said there were a lot of things being done in the region and sub-regions which had seen much growth and the regional bloc had also made a lot of progress since its establishment, while having great potential to spur the growth of each member country.
Attending the 34th ASEAN Summit which concluded here today, Dr Mahathir said : “ Many people say ASEAN is dormant.
“However, there are lots of things being done even in the sub-regional areas, including the Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle (IMT-GT), which has seen much growth.
“I think the dedication towards ASEAN is very real. By comparison to other regional groupings, ASEAN is not only able to work together, but also peaceful.Other (groupings) are not peaceful or having problems with its membership, including the North American Union and the European Union.”
He was speaking to the Malaysian media after also concluding a four-day working visit to Thailand.
Meanwhile, Dr Mahathir urged member countries to make a special effort to boost intra-ASEAN trade.
He said trade within the members was very small at 25 per cent of total trade compared to other groupings like the EU and North America Union where the trade recorded was between 40 to 50 per cent.
“We have ideas and among others is to stimulate tourism as well as procedures, processes and legal requirements to increase trade among ASEAN countries.
“Other than this, we have to also ensure what we can import from ASEAN. A lot can be produced as import substitutes. This is one way ASEAN-member countries can promote their industries,” he added.
in this regard, Dr Mahathir also proposed that the ASEAN car could stop the import of cars into the region.
“When we assemble foreign cars in Malaysia, it becomes a big business… subsequently we can substitute this with our own national car,” he said.
He also said ASEAN welcomed all Foreign Direct Investments into the region in areas that have been identified by the respective countries.
“There are plans to improve further. We are facilitating communication, so that people can do business much more easily with each country,” he added.
Meanwhile, Dr Mahathir said his meeting with Thai Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan o-cha today also discussed various issues, including the peace process in southern Thailand and the construction of a bridge at the border to facilitate bilateral trade.
Apart from that, the problem of dual citizenship was also discussed.
“There are also Malaysian citizens who are Thais and this has created a lot problems,’ he said.
Meanwhile, the secretary-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Datuk Sri Muhammad Shahrul Ikram Yaakob said Malaysia was committed to concluding the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) this year.
“Negotiations are still ongoing with some issues that need to be ironed out. The issues include the dispute settlement mechanism, as well as some members seeking exclusion.
“It is an ongoing process. In fact, we have missed the target to sign the RCEP quite a number of times, but we are committed to concluding it by year-end,” he added.
The RCEP is a proposed free trade agreement between the ASEAN-member countries and six Asia Pacific nations, namely Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.
The free trade agreement was officially launched at the 2012 ASEAN Summit in Cambodia.
The RCEP has a population of 3.4 billion with gross domestic product (GDP) valued at US$49.5 trillion or 39 per cent of global GDP.
Earlier, General Prayuth urged all ASEAN-member countries to conclude the RCEP to form the largest free trade area in the world this year.
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