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AEC tie-up is 'still on track'

THAILAND has assured other Asean nations that the political unrest here will not upset the plan to inaugurate the Asean Economic Community next year, while expecting to complete documentary signing after getting a new government this year.

"Many Asean countries have expressed concern about the political situation in Thailand, and questioned whether the unrest will affect the Kingdom's ability to proceed to regional integration. I insisted that other activities are still operating as normal, except some documents that need to wait for the new government to ink," Somkiat Triratpan, deputy director-general of the Trade Negotiations Department, said last week.

Thailand is still moving on the regional integration pact under its commitment with Asean, he said after attending the Asean Senior Economic Officials Meeting in Myanmar.

Indonesia is also changing its government and is scheduled to hold elections for parliament and president in April and July, respectively. The signing of some Asean documents may be transferred to other Asean countries before Thailand and Indonesia. After that both countries will sign them.

Documents that need the government's ratification include the ninth volume of the liberalisation of service businesses, adjustment of investment regulations and reserved businesses, and the Asean-India free-trade agreement on services and investment.

According to the department, Asean countries have made big progress in moving towards the AEC. Among the 10 member states, Singapore has accomplished 79 per cent of the AEC plans, followed by Thailand.

Some issues that Asean countries have delayed implementing by 2015 are transportation facilitation, the setting of processed food standards and the negotiations for the 10th service business liberalisation.

Asean countries have also insisted that they will continue to move toward the AEC by 2015. During the Asean Economic Ministers Meeting Retreat from February 26-27, they will discuss the headway in solving problems with non-tariff barriers.

This year, Asean, which is chaired by Myanmar, plans to focus on supporting the development of small and medium-sized enterprises. Asean also discussed how to deepen cooperation among the members after the AEC is achieved next year.


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