ASEAN targets market, manufacturing unity

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Foreign Ministers and diplomats from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states pose for the Coordinating Council group photograph during the 16th ASEAN Summit in Hanoi April 8 (REUTERS)

Leaders of the Southeast Asian regional bloc have pledged to step up efforts needed to achieve the goal of establishing a single market and manufacturing base by 2015.

At the 16th ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) summit that opened in Hanoi on April 8, the leaders said regional ties need to be strengthened by facilitating vital road, sea and air links and boosting the use of local currencies in intra-regional trade.

They also called for a legally binding global pact on climate change.

Summit participants said efforts to connect the region's power grid and natural gas pipelines, and to improve Internet and telecommunications connections should be speeded up.

Vietnam, the current chair of ASEAN's revolving leadership, has made connectivity a key issue during its one-year tenure.

The AFP cited analysts as saying physical and telecommunication links will complement ASEAN's efforts to tear down trade barriers and help its goal of establishing a single market and manufacturing base by 2015.

Interconnections will "reinforce ASEAN's position as a hub of the East Asian region for transport, information technology, tourism, energy and logistics," the ASEAN leaders said in a statement.

Local currencies

Southeast Asian countries are also studying ways to boost the use of local currencies in intraregional trade, Vietnam's central bank said on April 7.

Central bank chiefs from the ten ASEAN countries met in Khanh Hoa Province's Nha Thang Town ahead of their leaders' annual summit on the two following days in Hanoi.

In a statement after the meeting, the State Bank of Vietnam said "the initiative to use regional currencies for ASEAN internal commercial payment is part of monetary cooperation."

It said the central bank governors also ordered a study into a regional payment system for commercial trade.

The use of local currencies is part of steps being taken by ASEAN to deepen economic integration, which also includes tearing down tariff and non-tariff trade barriers and building infrastructure links by land, sea and air.

Social issues

In another effort to head "Towards the ASEAN Community" the theme of Vietnam's ASEAN chairmanship this year the ASEAN Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC) was officially established in Hanoi on April 7.

Prime Minister and Chair of ASEAN 2010 Nguyen Tan Dung said that the setting up of the

ACWC reflected the aspirations of ASEAN's leaders as stated in the 2004 Vientiane Action Program.

The program is a roadmap for building the ASEAN Community from 2009-2015 based on the three pillars of politics-security, economics and socio-cultural issues and narrowing the development gap.

Climate change

ASEAN countries leaders attending the ASEAN 16th summit in Vietnam also urged for more efforts to tackle climate change on global scale.

All parties under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change should "work together to secure a legally binding agreement, particularly to limit the increase in average global temperatures to below two degrees Celsius above the preindustrial level," the statement said.

Rich countries should continue taking the lead in cutting greenhouse gas emissions, it said.

Developed countries should also "continue taking the lead by making more ambitious commitments and setting out specific and equitable binding targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the mid-term and long-term," the statement said.

The leaders also said they will consider "the possibility of developing an ASEAN action plan to better understand and respond to climate change."

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