Reposted from The Manilla Bulletin
By Charissa M. Luci and Genalyn D. Kabiling
PHNOM PENH — The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) wants to become the “investment destination of choice” by 2015, and has crafted a road map towards that vision.
At the closing of the 20th ASEAN Summit yesterday, the region’s leaders welcomed the entry into force of the ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement (ACIA), which contains enhanced investment provisions on liberalization, protection, facilitation and promotion.
In effect, the ACIA will transform the region into a free and open investment regime.
ASEAN Secretary General Dr. Surin Pitsuwan expressed confidence the ACIA implementation would facilitate the free flow of goods and services in the region that will benefit its 600 million people.
“This will definitely provide for investor confidence and support the notion for ASEAN to be not only an attractive investment hub but also becomes elected as an investment destination of choice,” Pitsuwan said.
ASEAN is made up of the Philippines, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
In a statement at the end of the summit, the ASEAN leaders said they “looked forward to intensified programs and projects to promote and facilitate investment and the elimination of the remaining investment barriers to achieve a free and open regime by 2015.”
Pitsuwan said ACIA would facilitate the transformation of ASEAN into an investment hub that would be able to compete effectively with other emerging economies.
ACIA is a hybrid of revising and merging the ASEAN Investment Area (AIA) and Investment Guarantee Agreements (IGA) into a single comprehensive ASEAN investment agreement. Given the competitive global environment for foreign direct investment, ACIA was drafted with the aim of creating a freer and more open investment regime towards the achievement of ASEAN economic integration, based on international best practices.
ACIA reaffirms the national treatment and most-favored-nation treatment obligations and provides for enhanced protection elements and incorporates new and forward-looking provisions, Ptisuwan said.
The agreement provides for further progressive reduction or elimination of reservations and improvement of investment regimes. The ACIA Reservation Lists (also called the ACIA Schedule) has been endorsed by the ASEAN Investment Area (AIA) Council Ministers.
Arriving from Phnom Penh Wednesday night, President Benigno S. Aquino III summed up his attendance in the ASEAN) summit as “successful” after asserting the country’s concerns on the West Philippine Sea, North Korea’s planned rocket launch, food security, and lower remittance fees for Filipino overseas workers.
Aquino also declared that confidence of the international community on the country is growing because of his government’s reform agenda.
“Together with the leaders from nine countries, we discussed various topics that have huge implications not only to the members of ASEAN but also the readiness of Southeast Asia to face the challenges ahead. Because of our proposals that seek to strengthen relations with our neighbors, we expressed our willingness to cooperate towards sustainable growth and lasting peace,” he said in Filipino.
Aquino said he called for a common position on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea before meeting with China to craft a document that will guide claimant-countries in the disputed territory.
Giving priority to the interests of the ASEAN members before following the orders of others was in line with the principle of ASEAN centrality, he said. “We hope this will be an instrument to attaining peace in the West Philippine Sea,” he said.
Aquino welcomed a regional pact that creates a rice reserve mechanism in case of supply shortage. The ASEAN and its three dialogue partners have agreed to set aside a rice stock of 787,000 to ensure food security.
He said he encouraged ASEAN to adopt a Philippine-initiated system reducing remittance fees paid by migrant workers when sending money to their families back home. From the remittance fees reaching P500, Filipino workers can pay only P55 standard fee.
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