Thailand is hosting the 51st ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting and related meetings with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha delivering a welcoming speech on Friday, reports BSS/Xinhua.
The prime minister spoke highly of ASEAN’s achievements since its establishment 52 years ago, including ASEAN Free Trade Area which promotes free trade between ASEAN countries by lowering tariffs, ASEAN Economic Community that enhances economic cooperation and ASEAN’s proposal of Regional
Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
He said talks between the 10 ASEAN member states and six trade partners are expected to conclude within this year.
The conclusion to the RCEP talks will lead to the opening of the world’s largest markets for some 3.5 billion people in those countries combined, accounting for nearly half the world population and 27.3 trillion U.S. dollars in total trade values or 32.3 percent of the world’s Gross Domestic
Product, he mentioned.
He said that Thailand, as chair of ASEAN this year, has played the role of strengthening ASEAN community in different aspects. Those aspects involve the world’s modern technology and innovation, digital economy, Internet of things and Smart industries, among others.
Thailand was focusing on the upgrading of its workforce’s occupational skills, SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises), technology and innovation. “We cannot do anything alone. The world has been changing and more problems have been arising,” he said as he called for more ASEAN unity to address new challenges.
Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit confirmed that the RCEP talks between the 10 ASEAN member states and six trade partner countries are making good progress as the RCEP Ministerial Meeting is to be held during the session, followed by another one in November.
Jurin said RCEP consultation, once completed, would benefit the all 16 countries.
The commerce minister also mentioned that the ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting and related meetings would arrange six days of talks to address obstacles to international trade, discuss the ASEAN Free Trade Area and resume the RCEP talks.
Besides, bilateral talks between ASEAN member states are scheduled on the sidelines of ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting.
Friday’s meeting focused on efforts to reduce or waive export tariffs among ASEAN member states and trade partners, though some of the participating countries may not have been prepared to waive the tariffs.
The ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting and related meetings are being held in Bangkok until Sept. 10.