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Summits to be held by June in Phuket

The abruptly suspended Asean Summit would be rescheduled in Phuket as soon as possible in an effort to restore foreign investors' confidence in the country, Deputy Commerce Minister Alongkorn Pollabutr said.

Asean chief Surin Pitsuwan said on Friday that the summit would take place no later than early June.

Alongkorn said the Asean Economic Summit would be held in August as scheduled to ensure the Asean Economic Community remains on track to be implemented by 2015. "It's a pity the country had to postpone the Asean+3+6 Summit because of the political disorder. The government is attempting to restore confidence by hosting the summit as soon as possible," Alongkorn said.

Asean and China will ink an investment cooperation agreement during the upcoming summit.

The 16 leaders of 10-member Asean and its six dialogue partners - China, South Korea, Japan, India, Australia and New Zealand - will discuss ways of coping with the global economic meltdown.

Leaders will also discuss the possibility of launching negotiations to establish an East Asia Free Trade Agreement for Asean+3 (China, Japan and South Korea) and a Com-prehensive Economic Partnership for East Asia for Asean+6.

Asean+3 is conducting a feasibility study on the proposed FTA. So far, it has focused on the manufacturing sectors of Asean and the three partners, as well as rules of origin, trade facilitation and the planned pact's impact on sensitive goods.

Under the Asean+6 framework, which adds India, Australia and New Zealand, another study is looking into major areas of cooperation, particularly investment, environmental development, telecommunications and agro-industry.

Somkiat Anuras, vice chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said the postponement of the summit had cost Asean and its partners a major opportunity to boost trade amid the economic slowdown.

"Although Asean's major goal of forming the single economic community will not be postponed, other minor agreements on trade liberalisation will be affected," he said.

Citing two examples, Somkiat said implementation of pilot agreements on tourism and aviation-sector liberalisation would be delayed.

Meanwhile, the Commerce Ministry has ordered the urgent launch of additional overseas roadshows by its Export Promotion, Foreign Trade, and Trade Negotiations departments.

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