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Speech by Minister Chan Chun Sing at the 17th AEC Council Meeting

Speech by Minister Chan Chun Sing at the 17th AEC Council Meeting

Your Excellencies,

Distinguished Delegates,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. On behalf of my delegation, I would like to warmly welcome you to Singapore. It is our pleasure to host you at the 17th ASEAN Economic Community Council Meeting and the 33rd ASEAN Summit and Related Summit Meetings. 

2. ASEAN has come a long way since its inception in 1967. Over the last half a century, ASEAN has built a stable, open, and inclusive regional economic community that has brought about growth and prosperity for our people and businesses. 

3. Despite the growing global uncertainties and trade tensions, ASEAN continues to be an engine of growth. ASEAN has enjoyed an annual GDP growth of 5.1% from 2011 to 2016, well above the global average of 3.9%, owing to our strong economic fundamentals and unwavering commitment to regional economic integration. 

4. The future of ASEAN holds immense economic potential. Fuelled by growing foreign direct investments, a youthful population of 630 million as well as a growing middle class, ASEAN is well-poised to become the fourth largest single economy in the world by 2030, after the EU, the US and China. 

5. The ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015 marked an important milestone in ASEAN’s regional integration journey. ASEAN remains committed to further deepening our regional economic integration under the AEC Blueprint 2025 (or AEC 2025) to realise the full potential of the AEC. Against the backdrop of rising anti-globalisation sentiments and trade tensions, ASEAN will need to continue to stay open and connected, and leverage on our collective strength to navigate disruptive trends and anchor our relevance to the global economy. 

6. Building on our shared vision and thought leadership of the preceding ASEAN chairs, Singapore’s Chairmanship theme of “Resilient and Innovative” seeks to strengthen ASEAN’s resilience in anticipation of unprecedented global shifts through deeper regional economic integration, and harnessing opportunities from innovation to prepare ASEAN for our future. 

7. As our Chairmanship draws to a close at the 33rd ASEAN Summit later this week, we are gathered here to take stock of our work before we report to the Leaders. 2018 has been a rewarding year. Together with all ASEAN Member States, we have achieved good outcomes, and I would like to thank all our officials for your efforts behind the scenes.

i. The ASEAN Economic Ministers signed the ASEAN Agreement on e-Commerce earlier this morning. With the rise of the digital economy and e-Commerce as an enabler for businesses, the agreement will streamline regional trade rules governing e-Commerce, and improve the operating environment for businesses. Consumers in the region will also stand to benefit from lower costs, improvement in the speed and reliability of supply chains and more robust consumer protection measures for e-Commerce transactions.

ii. We will be concluding the ASEAN Trade in Services Agreement or ATISA. This is timely. As our economies develop and diversify, ASEAN needs to pay more attention to trade in services, which is increasingly becoming a critical driver of growth of our economies. It is thus imperative that ASEAN press ahead with the liberalisation in services, in tandem with facilitating the seamless movement of goods. The ATISA will broaden and deepen the integration of services sectors within ASEAN and introduce disciplines related to services trade, thereby creating a more liberal, stable and predictable environment for service suppliers of ASEAN. 


iii. With customs duties falling from the proliferation of Free Trade Agreements, non-tariff measures (NTM) have become more pertinent barriers to trade. To ensure that businesses continue to benefit from improved market access, ASEAN has paid stronger attention to trade facilitation. To this end, we have adopted a set of guidelines to better address non-tariff measures and eliminate trade-distorting effects, and Good Regulatory Practice Core Principles to ensure that our businesses continue to operate in a conducive regulatory environment.

iv. The ability to attract continued investments in our region is critical to maintaining our growth trajectory, and in fulfilling the needs of our economies. An important component of our efforts in this area is ensuring that our agreements remain relevant to business needs. To this end, we will be finalising enhancements to the ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement or ACIA, which will improve both liberalisation and transparency in ASEAN Member States’ investment regimes. When implemented, investors will enjoy greater certainty and fewer restraints on their investments in ASEAN. This will allow ASEAN to remain as an attractive and competitive investment destination.
 
v. Two weeks ago, at the ASEAN Energy Ministers Meeting, we signed an ASEAN Memorandum of Understanding on Energy Cooperation with the International Renewable Energy Agency or IRENA to scale up renewable energy deployment in the region. This is a significant step towards ASEAN’s collective efforts to increase its share of renewable energy in the region’s total energy mix by 2025, which will ensure that we are powered sustainably towards continued, long term growth.

8. These are critical milestones in ASEAN’s transition towards AEC 2025 as we turn our focus to emerging issues and tap on opportunities arising from global megatrends, such as the digital economy, trade facilitation and good regulatory practices. 

9. ASEAN has made significant strides in our regional integration journey. However, we will need to stay on track and press on with the implementation of the AEC 2025. We will need to remain adaptable, agile, forward looking to harness opportunities and sustain our long-term growth. 

10. On this note, we look forward to a fruitful discussion today and I thank all officials who have worked hard behind the scenes to prepare for this meeting.   

Thank you very much.

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