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ABAC:ASEAN Leaders Express Keen Interest In Promoting SMEs

KUALA LUMPUR, April 27 (Bernama) -- ASEAN leaders have expressed keen interest in promoting Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) as the driving force for the proposed ASEAN Economic Community.

"They realise that emphasis should be given to SMEs and ASEAN can further work together in this regard," said ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ABAC) chairman, Tan Sri Dr Mohd Munir Abdul Majid today. ASEAN leaders who are here for the 26th ASEAN Summit wanted to know the best approach to elevating SME development, he added. He was speaking after ABAC's interaction with the ASEAN leaders here. Among others, Munir said Philippines President Benigno S. Aquino III pledged his support to further strengthen the SME sector, while Thailand's Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha said Bangkok would step up efforts to remove non-tariff barriers. On ABAC's proposals for the post-2015 ASEAN vision to be submitted in November this year, he said the council would complete it by end-August. "We want our ideas to be incorporated in the post-2015 ASEAN vision agenda," he added. Munir had previously stated that ABAC Malaysia would put forward 11 proposals for the post-2015 ASEAN vision with a focus on boosting intra-ASEAN trade.

On the suggestion that ASEAN and the European Union resume negotiations for a free trade pact, he said it is an endorsement of the regional grouping as an attractive economic-bloc. "Everyone wants to come here. They see the potential," he said. The ASEAN-EU FTA negotiations were launched in 2007, but following seven rounds of negotiations, were quietly dropped in March 2009. This was largely due to disagreement over the political and human rights situation in Myanmar. ASEAN was established in 1967 by Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia, and later joined by Brunei Darussalam, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia.