While the official implementation date of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) blueprint is 31st December 2015, the AEC package would have been finalised at the 27th Asean leaders summit scheduled from 19-21 November. The private sector therefore has to move very fast to table its proposals for incorporation in that package.

The Asean Business Advisory Council (Asean-BAC) is leading this effort by, apart from the substantial work it has already done, integrating all other major private sector reports and viewpoints. At its first meeting for the year today, and from meetings yesterday and tomorrow, Asean-BAC is focussed on ensuring a report is produced early on in the year to the Asean chair which will involve:

  1. A private sector stock-take of where the AEC stands
  2. Identification of major remaining barriers
  3. Proposed prioritised achievable actions before the end of 2015.

Asean-BAC chairman Tan Sri Dr. Munir Majid said: “There is no time to lose. But there is still time to get cracking on achievable actions to give content to an AEC which can be credibly pronounced.”

To that end, Tan Sri Munir has made arrangements to bring the Council together with international research partners from AT Kearney, Accenture, Ernst & Young and many others that had been involved in the Lift-The-Barriers Reports (LTBRs) put together by CIMB Asean Research Institute (CARI) on behalf of the Asean Business Club (ABC) in 2013 and 2014 which covered a total of 12 sectors. Tan Sri Munir is Chairman of CARI and President of ABC.

Together with substantial work already done by Asean-BAC on young and women entrepreneurs and, especially, on SMEs (small and medium enterprises), as well as extensive consultations Asean-BAC has had with Asean+ Business Councils and other trade organisations, that report will be reflective of what the private sector wants the AEC to look like at the end of 2015.

Tan Sri Munir added: “The LTBRs, for instance, are a truly substantial gap analysis between official pronouncement and actual business experience. The push now must be to fill the gaps as much as possible. Asean-BAC work on SMEs has been vigorous and pointed, and action by Asean leaders to address the concerns of this strategic sector is absolutely necessary.

“Asean-BAC Malaysia has also had extensive discussions with trade organisations and professional bodies, both within and outside Malaysia to form and accommodate their views in the report. Indeed I have already submitted a “low-hanging fruits” report to the Asean chair as a precursor to the more detailed “stock-take and take action” report as described above which will be submitted very soon.

“It is important there is a clear picture of where we are at the moment and for the private sector bodies engaging the Asean leaders to be aligned and to speak with a single voice to provide realistic feedback and propose feasible measures. Immediately, non-tariff measures and barriers in the Priority Integration Sectors are the first on the list we hope to address, together with strong input in the SME Strategic Action Plan which will be announced by the Asean chair in May. Asean-BAC has also continually been engaging the Asean+ partners. And yesterday we had sessions with the US-Asean Business Council and the EU-Asean Business Council. I will be welcoming the Chinese and Japanese for the exclusive enagagement in April.”

Tan Sri Munir has invited the Asean-BAC co-chairs, Mr. U Win Aung (2014 chair, from Myanmar) and Mr. Oudet Souvennavong (2016 chair, from Laos) to join him at the media briefing. Arrangements have also been made for discussions and collaborative activities throughout the year with private sector bodies, primarily in Malaysia, but there will be a significant SME workshop in Laos in September to understand better the needs on the ground there which could be taken forward into the post-2015 AEC – the broader topic which will be included in the Asean-BAC report and dialogue with leaders in November.


Kuala Lumpur, 27 January 2015 –

S5 Box