Member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) on Sunday formally announced the establishment of an economic community that will allow freer movement of trade and capital in an area of 625 million people with a combined economic output of $2.4 trillion.
The declaration to create the Asean Economic Community (AEC), an EU-style regional economic bloc, was signed by leaders of the 10 member countries in Kuala Lumpur, during the group's annual summit.
The Kuala Lumpur declaration, signed today, in front of world leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, creates a single market with a free flow of goods, capital and skilled labour in the region.
The Asean leaders also adopted the declaration on ''Asean 2025, forging ahead together''.
''Asean is working towards a community that is politically cohesive, economically integrated and socially responsible,'' the declaration said.
The Asean community includes such diverse countries of vastly differing political, security and socio-cultural dimensions and governments ranging from communist Vietnam, quasi-military Myanmar to the kingdom of Brunei and the overactive democracy of the Philippines.
But, these divergencies have not deterred these countries in forming an economic community as the integration offers the most concrete opportunities in a region whose combined gross domestic product (GDP) would make it the world's seventh-largest economy.
"In practice, we have virtually eliminated tariff barriers between us," said Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, the summit host. "Now we have to assure freer movements and removal of barriers that hinder growth and investment."
The countries will now harmonise their economic strategies and consult more closely on macroeconomic and financial policies.
They have also agreed to enhance the connectivity of their transportation infrastructure and communications, better facilitate electronic transactions, integrate industries to promote regional sourcing, and enhance private-sector involvement in the economy.
The Asean 2025 document charts the path for the AEC building over the next ten years.
''It is a forward looking roadmap that articulates Asean goals and aspirations to realise further consolidation,'' the leaders said.
the Asean 2025 vision document commits to work with external partners to strengthen cooperation in combating non-traditional security challenges like terrorism, drug related crimes, human trafficking and maritime issues through various initiatives and projects, the declaration added.
ASEAN grouping includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.