ASEAN Business Club launches 2nd Lifting-The-Barriers reports, wants action plan to follow

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KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 1): Businesses have a responsibility to make the Asean Economic Community (AEC) a reality and not just wait for the cue from governments, said AirAsia Bhd group CEO Tan Sri Tony Fernandes.

“Businesses have a responsibility to make the AEC happen. There is no need to wait for a cue from governments. Those in the private sector are encouraged to work together in helping ASEAN realise its full potential going forward,” he said.

Fernandes, who is also the Asean Business Club (ABC) Forum 2014 chairman, said governments should also show some commitment to the cause by increasing the capacity of the Asean Secretariat.

He was speaking at the launch of the second set of Lifting-The-Barriers (LTB) reports today by the ABC Delegation and CIMB Asean Research Institute (CARI).

CIMB Group Holdings Bhd Chairman Datuk Sri Nazir Razak said the Asean Secretariat is indeed inefficient as it is currently understaffed and underfunded.

“The European Union has 30,000 staff. ASEAN has 300. Surely 300 is the wrong number. Also, it is not properly powered, not properly funded. This needs to be addressed sooner and is a matter of priority,” he said.

The LTB reports outlines the gaps in seven different sectors in the Asean region that has to be addressed in implementing the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015.

The sectors in focus are: legal, tax, automotive and manufacturing, financial services and capital markets, oil and gas, food and beverages, and retail.

The reports have not only identified the trade-barrier gaps, but also provided recommendations to address the issues, said CIMB ASEAN Research Institute Chairman Tan Sri Munir Majid.

He also outlined the importance of having a harmonised framework for the legal and taxation systems of the different countries, and also the harmonisation of standards within the segments.

“The LTB reports are a gap analysis, but one which offers specific proposals on how to fill the gaps. As such, they are a positive contribution to making the AEC a more meaningful economic reality,” said Munir during his speech at the ceremony.

Going forward, Munir said ABC will continue to push the report’s recommendations towards the authorities to ensure that some of the key items are adopted next year.

“Clearly, there are still a lot of matters to be addressed, and there must be an action plan. We hope, as we launch the second set of the LTBs, the action plan can begin, specifically in the coming year when Malaysia holds the chairmanship for ASEAN,” said Munir.

The first set of LTB reports was launched on Nov 29 last year, and focused on trade-barrier issues in aviation, connectivity, infrastructure, power and utilities, capital market, financial services and healthcare.