(Eagle News) — Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III told participants at the ASEAN Finance Ministers Investors’ Seminar (AFMIS) that now is the best time to invest in the economies of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as they are expected to collectively become a strong driver of global growth in the next decade.
Dominguez, as host of this year’s AFMIS, delivered the opening remarks at the forum’s plenary session.
Finance ministers and central bank governors of ASEAN agreed to further promote inclusive growth, financial stability and economic integration among members of the 10-nation regional bloc.
They will meet separately and, later, jointly on Friday (April 7) to cap the series of conferences in Cebu on ways to further promote inclusive growth and financial integration.
The ASEAN finance ministers exchanged views on further harnessing investment opportunities within the 10-member regional bloc amid the current slowdown in global growth when they met in Cebu for the 12th session of the AFMIS.
Dominguez said the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) offers many advantages for investors, since the ASEAN has a strong market of 600 million people and a 300 million-strong labor force which is not only talented and dynamic, but also young.
“The regional economy we envision is a truly ambitious undertaking that will require massive investments. But we have momentum and opportunity on our side. The support of the investor community will be indispensable for this undertaking to succeed,” Dominguez said in his opening remarks at the Shangri-La Mactan Resort.
Globalization is the way to progress, says Dominguez
“Our governments are convinced that globalization is the way to progress. Our economies have much headroom for rapid expansion, beginning from a massive infrastructure build-up that will bring our region increased efficiency,” he said.
The Philippines is this year’s chair of the ASEAN, which is marking 50 years of existence with the theme “Partnering for Change, Engaging the World.”
“We have developed a Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025 and a detailed AEC Blueprint 2025. In less than a decade, we aspire to build a truly dynamic regional economy,” Dominguez said.
“More extensive cooperation and more intensive integration have been beneficial to the economies of this dynamic region. All our economies are driven to a large extent by trade. The ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) provided us a framework for dramatically increasing intra-regional trade and investments,” he said.
Dominguez said that the AEC will provide a “strong driver for growth among ourselves and global growth.”
The ASEAN Fiannce ministers will continue to tackle issues on regional connectivity as well as current events and other issues relevant to ASEAN members, including topics ranging from infrastructure investment and e-commerce to trade facilitation and the region’s rising consumer market during the Cebu meetings.
Dominguez of the Philippines is this year’s ASEAN host, and ASEAN Deputy Secretary General Lim Hong Hin opened the meeting, set at the Shangri-La Mactan Hotel.
Finance Ministers Pehin Dato Abdul Rahman Ibrahim of Brunei Darussalam; Sri Mulyani Indrawati of Indonesia; Johari Abdul Ghani of Malaysia; Apisak Tantivorawong of Thailand; and Secretary of State Sokha Nguon of Cambodia were expected to attend the AFMIS and the series of high-level meetings at the Shangrila Mactan Hotel.
Founded 50 years ago, ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam into one regional bloc.
This regional group established the AEC, which officially commenced on Dec. 31, 2015, comprising a market of 600 million people or about eight percent of the world’s population.
ASEAN, 7th largest economy in the world
ASEAN is the seventh largest economy in the world with a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $2.5 trillion as of 2015. It also has the third largest labor pool and is the world’s fourth largest exporting region.
This year marks a milestone for the ASEAN, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary with the Philippines as host. The 2017 ASEAN theme is “Partnering for Change, Engaging the World.”
A day earlier, the finance ministers were set to exchange views on further expanding investment opportunities within the region during the 12th session AFMIS.
They were also scheduled to discuss challenges and opportunities for ASEAN amid the current global economic uncertainties and how the region could make growth sustainable and inclusive for its peoples.
In their April 6 meeting here, they were also set to tackle the progress of AEC, which is designed to create a single market and production base within Southeast Asia through the free flow of goods, skilled labor, services and investments among its 10 member-economies.
Foreign Finance Ministers Pehin Dato Abdul Rahman Ibrahim of Brunei Darussalam; Sri Mulyani Indrawati of Indonesia; Johari Abdul Ghani of Malaysia; Apisak Tantivorawong of Thailand; and Secretary of State Sokha Nguon of Cambodia, as well as other senior officials from ASEAN are taking part in the AFMIS and the series of high-level meetings at the Shangri-La Mactan Hotel.
The official gatherings of the ASEAN finance ministers and central bank governors were preceded by a series of meetings and forums among the ASEAN finance deputies and central bank deputies on April 4-5.
An ASEAN + 3 Finance and Central Deputies Meeting with China, Japan and Korea and a separate ASEAN-US Treasury Deputies Meeting were held on April 5.
Before the ASEAN finance and central bank chiefs buckled down to work, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Amado Tetangco hosted a dinner reception on April 5.
Dominguez, meanwhile, was to host a gala dinner on Thursday night.