ASEAN economy has proven itself to be resilient, but there are lingering challenges and risks, including the sovereign debt crisis and fiscal problems in some developed markets, rising food and commodity prices, and continued financial market stresses.
The ASEAN Economic Ministers made the observation and reminder at the 43rd ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) meetingon August 10 and 11, 2011.
According to the ASEAN secretariat's press release received yesterday, ASEAN's recovery as a whole has matured as both exports and domestic demand fueled growth to expand by 7.5% last year.
Intra-regional trade and investment flows also showed an upward momentum and are likely to support domestic growth this year, which is projected between 5.7% and 6.4%.
ASEAN`s merchandise trade grew at 32.9% last year, as trade value jumped from USD 1.54 trillion in 2009 to USD 2.04 trillion last year, after the 19% decline in 2009," according to ASEAN`s high ranking officials as quoted by the secretariat.
As an attractive foreign direct investment (FDI) destination, ASEAN has maintained its allure.
FDI into ASEAN reached USD 75.8 billion last year, doubling the 2009 level, and surpassing the pre-global crisis peak in 2007 of USD 75.7 billion.
Over the last ten years, FDI flows in ASEAN grew at an annual average rate of 19 per cent.
The week-long Economic Meetings in Manado this week also included the 25th ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) Council and the 14th ASEAN Investment Area (AIA) Council Meetings, both held annually.
Despite the encouraging figures, the Ministers reminded each other that ASEAN should remain vigilant in the face of global economic climate and stressed that ASEAN should continue to harness its competitiveness through deeper integration and implement its economic integration initiatives in a timely manner.
ASEAN has benefited from a strong economic growth and increased commitments from its Member States. By end-April this year, ASEAN has completed almost 68% of measures due under Phase I (2008-09) and Phase II (2010-2011) of implementing the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Blueprint, as greater efforts were exerted to reach the goals of an AEC by 2015.
In line with Indonesia`s ASEAN Chairmanship theme "ASEAN Community in a Global Community of Nations", the Ministers had earlier outlined their economic vision for 2011.
First, to achieve significant progress in realizing the ASEAN Community by 2015 which includes more emphasis on the AEC Blueprint`s third pillar "towards a region of equitable economic development" for a more inclusive Community.
Second, to increase the utilization of the ASEAN+1 Free Trade Area agreements while responding to the evolving regional architecture, and identifying and implementing ASEAN initiatives that may contribute to the global community, and third is to start thinking of an ASEAN vision beyond 2015.