Ten Southeast Asian nations launched an ambitious plan to integrate their economies to bring prosperity to the region’s 622 million citizens.
The common market aims to forge a prominent regional bloc to rival China and Japan, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Over time, the countries, all members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), plan to boost economic ties by further lowering tariffs and allowing a freer flow of labor, services and capital across the region, the newspaper said.
The bloc, called the ASEAN Economic Community, includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore Thailand and Vietnam.
The leaders of the bloc aim to almost double their countries’ nearly US$2.6 trillion combined economy by 2030, the report said. Their effort formally begins on Thursday but will still take years to complete.
“It’s a big milestone for us,” Le Luong Minh, secretary general of the bloc, was quoted as saying.
Less than a half century ago some Southeast Asian countries were still at war, he pointed out. “We’ve made a lot of progress.”
The Journal said the economic integration plan is backed by the United States, which is rebalancing its foreign policy towards Asia, in part to address China’s increased military and economic assertiveness in the region.
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