July 22, 2009
The conference of South-East Asian countries have begun formulating an answer to free trade agreements in Europe and America.
Foreign Ministers from around the world are meeting in Phuket for the 42nd Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) conference to discuss security, co-operation and strategy.
At the opening ceremony for the conference H.E. Mr. Abhisit Vejjajiva Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand set out a vision for a South-East Asian Community with a single visa, integrated economy and homogenised regulations similar to that of the EU by 2015.
…The ASEAN Community should be a Community of Connectivity. This means goods and peoples, investment and initiatives, can travel obstacle-free throughout the region – from Sumatra to Luzon, from the Ayeyawady Delta to the Mekong Delta. A fully integrated ASEAN economy as a single market and production base must have such connectivity built into both its hardware and software…
…region-wide transportation linkages must be in place and user-friendly, whether they be the East-West or North-South economic corridors, maritime routes through the Malacca Strait, or air links across airports throughout the region…
…We must be visa-free within the region and offer an ASEAN Single Visa for those outside the region….
This would mean a sea-change for travellers in the region who currently need a range of visas to visit the well-trodden group of South-East Asian destinations such as Thailand, Burma, Laos and Cambodia. Better rail links might also open up new attractions for visitors. A single economy in South-East Asia would also increase the region’s competitive advantage in relation to the EU and North American Free Trade.