PM Najib: ASEAN must engage its people

Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak smiles during a joint news conference with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in Putrajaya November 5, 2014.

KUALA LUMPUR - ASEAN's challenge is to ensure the benefits of the region's continued growth are widespread so that it can bring businesses and people closer together, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

This meant, said Najib, that ASEAN must focus its efforts to engage its greatest asset, which was its people.

"Under Malaysia's chairmanship, we will prioritise public communication to help more people appreciate the benefits of economic integration.

"And we will look to do more to engage businesses on the changes and opportunities to come," he said at the ASEAN Business Advisory Council (Abac) chairmanship handover dinner here last night.

The Abac chair was handed over from Myanmar to Malaysia, which will assume the chair of the regional body next year.

Later, a ceremony to launch ASEAN's 2015 logo and motto was held.

With the motto "Our People, Our Community, Our Vision", the colourful logo features 10 curved inter-connected elements, each representing a member country.

Malaysia's chairmanship of ASEAN will take place at a pivotal time for the regional grouping, which hopes to integrate the 10-member countries under an ASEAN Community.

It is based on three pillars - economy, political-security and socio-cultural.

The economic pillar, known as the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), aims to create a single market and production base in the region and is slated to be rolled out at the end of 2015.

Malaysia, said Najib, was committed to providing its small and medium enterprises with the skills and support to compete.

"During Malaysia's chairmanship of ASEAN and beyond, the regional grouping will also develop a comprehensive regional SME policy and I hope to announce a strategic plan to this effect next year," said Najib.

In his remarks, the chairman for 2015 Abac, Tan Sri Dr Munir Majid, said 2015 would be a special year for ASEAN as it would end with the announcement of the establishment of the AEC.

"It is as much the responsibility at the official level as at the private sector to ensure the announcement has substance and is credible," he said.