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PM talks strategy as AEM kicks off

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Prime Minister Hun Sen is speaking in his capacity as the Southeast Asian bloc’s chairman for this year at the opening ceremony of the 54th ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Meeting (AEM) and Related Meetings in Siem Reap town.

PM talks strategy as AEM kicks off

Prime Minister Hun Sen on September 14 reiterated the importance of the “four key strategic thrusts” under the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) framework to accelerate recovery in the bloc and promote sustainable, inclusive and resilient economic growth in the region, amid a confluence of shocks stemming from prolonged Covid-19-related disruptions, as well as rising oil prices and inflation tied to the Ukraine conflict.

The premier was speaking in his capacity as the Southeast Asian bloc’s chairman for this year at the opening ceremony of the 54th ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Meeting (AEM) and Related Meetings in Siem Reap town.

Anchored by Cambodia’s 19 priority economic deliverables (PED) for 2022, the four key strategic thrusts are: “Enhancing Digital Connectivity, Science and Technology”, “Narrowing the Development Gap for ASEAN’s Competitiveness”, “Promoting a More Integrated, Inclusive, Resilient and Competitive ASEAN” and “Strengthening Global ASEAN for Growth and Development”.

With the world facing a barrage of obstacles to development, Hun Sen put forth a set of topics for the 10-nation ASEAN to attach greater importance and channel more resources to, including: the maintenance of the international trading system based on rule-of-law, globalisation principles, and multilateralism mechanisms.

Other topics mentioned were trade and investment liberalisation and anti-protectionism; resilience-building in regional and global connectivity, logistics and supply chains; the digital economy; environmental protection; clean energy; sustainable development; food security; and ensuring resilient and sustainable regional and global economic recovery while continuing the battle against Covid-19.

“ASEAN should continue enhancing cooperation with external partners based on the principle of equity and mutual interest,” he said, calling for the full and effective utilisation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which he likened to an upgrade of the bloc’s multiple individual “ASEAN Plus One” agreements.

The RCEP has entered into force for all 15 signatories except for Indonesia, Myanmar, and the Philippines. Indonesia ratified the world’s largest trade pact on August 30 and – according to Singapore’s The Straits Times – aims for the deal to take effect in early November. The RCEP will take effect in the archipelago nation 60 days after it deposits its ratification instrument with the ASEAN Secretariat.

To maximise the RCEP’s potential benefits, Hun Sen suggested signatories “make the utmost effort in implementing commitments and continue the negotiations on opening up the markets, [in a bid] to attract other big economies to participate in this agreement.

“[Therefore,] this agreement should have its independent and authoritative secretariat that plays a key role in coordinating, promoting, and monitoring the implementation of this agreement,” the premier proposed.

“Cambodia remains interested, and offers all possibilities and concessions to host this secretariat.”

Minister of Commerce Pan Sorasak called on ASEAN to support overall sustainability and supply chain resilience in the region, as well as the free flow of essential goods and services that ensure food security.

As a result, the bloc’s gross domestic product (GDP) could grow five per cent in 2022 and 5.2 per cent in 2023, compared to three per cent last year, as predicted by a report from the ASEAN Secretariat, he claimed.

“The year 2022 marks the third [Cambodian] ASEAN chairmanship, and in [my] capacity as the AEM chair, I [along with] my fellow AEM Colleagues [commit] to further promote the acceleration and harmonisation of all restoration efforts in all areas to build [an] inclusive, sustainable, and resilient ASEAN Community in the post-Covid-19 [era].

“Cambodia [reaffirms her] strong determination to work more closely and proactively with all ASEAN member states, ASEAN’s dialogue partners, and the ASEAN Secretariat to achieve all the Deliverables under the ASEAN Economic Community pillar,” Sorasak said.

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