Afta must take off on schedule : Prasong
* Afta ——
Thai minister calls for closer economic co-operation and co-ordination
THAI Foreign Minister Prasong Soonsiri said Asean countries must strive to ensure that the Asean Free Trade Area (Afta) was implemented on schedule. This could be achieved through closer co-operation, he said.
“Each of us may have already invested in upgrading our individual economic infrastructures, but we would be making a quantum leap forward by co-ordinating our policies,” Squadron Leader Prasong told the Asean Ministerial Meeting yesterday.
Calling on member countries “to quicken the pace of economic co-operation”, he said that for Afta to succeed in attracting foreign investments, Asean must pay closer attention to other economic sectors.
Launched at the Asean summit held here last year, Afta calls for reduction of tariffs on products traded among the six member-countries to between 0 and 5 per cent within 15 years.
Sqn Ldr Prasong suggested that Asean could develop a “comprehensive plan” to enhance co-operation in the improvement of transportation and communications-infrastructure networks, the freer movement of capital and other financial resources and the harmonisation of standards.
At the same time, he stressed that it was important for all Asean governments to maintain strong links with the business community so that the public and private sectors could work towards a free Asean market.
Agreeing, Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Datuk Abdullah Badawi said: “We must inculcate in our peoples, especially our private sector, a strong sense of regional purpose, and be prepared to make the necessary short-term sacrifices for the sake of the long-term benefits that will be derived under Afta.”
Afta would raise the level of intra-Asean trade and investment and the competitiveness of industries, he said. But Afta’s success, he added, depended on the successful conclusion of the Uruguay Round of global trade talks.
Indonesia’s Foreign Minister, Mr Ali Alatas, said that if the multilateral trade talks were unsuccessful, countries would seek unilateral, bilateral or regional solutions to their trade problems.
Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, Brunei’s Foreign Minister, noted that Afta was proceeding on course.
He said Asean had continued to recognise the importance of sustained economic growth in maintaining peace and stability.