ASEAN Community tops Malaysia's priorities

KOTA KINABALU - The formal setting up of the ASEAN Community will be Malaysia's top priority as it takes over as the grouping's chairman this year.

Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman said Malaysia's emphasis would include "bringing ASEAN closer" to the 625 million population in the region.

Among the activities planned and proposed were a summit for the spouses of ASEAN leaders, young leaders, entrepreneurs and an ASEAN Culture Expressions showcase.

"The ultimate aim of ASEAN Community is to bring about positive change to the livelihoods and well-being of its peoples.

"We will create opportunities for greater engagement of its peoples and other relevant stakeholders in the regional community-building process," said Anifah.

Malaysia, said Anifah, would also push for the development of the ASEAN Community's Post-2015 Vision and its related documents that would chart the grouping's future and common destiny.

"These documents will be adopted by ASEAN leaders at the 27th summit later this year," he added.

ASEAN, he said, would also focus on strengthening the development of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which made up 97 per cent of businesses in the region.

"With regional integration placing SMEs under pressure to compete, we have to make efforts to ensure that this segment of the industry will continue to succeed," said Anifah, adding that Malaysia was also pushing for the expansion of intra-ASEAN trade and investment activities.

"We will direct efforts to promote cross-border investments. While there has been growth in this area in the last few years, I believe that there is still a lot more room for improvement."

Malaysia's priority, he said, was also to strengthen ASEAN institutions in light of changing regional and global dynamics.

"We intend to promote regional peace and security through moderation, which plays an important role to address conflicts and find solutions to issues concerning regional peace and security," said Anifah.