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KUALA LUMPUR, 1 December – In conjunction with the ASEAN Business Club (ABC) Delegation’s visit to Malaysia, the ABC in partnership with the CIMB ASEAN Research Institute (CARI) launched the second set of Lifting-The-Barriers (LTB) Reports today – another set of seven white papers outlining bottlenecks and barriers, coupled with workable solutions for an integrated ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015.

The targeted sectors this year were Legal & Tax, championed by ZICOlaw and EY, Automotive & Manufacturing championed by Jardine Cycle & Carriage and AAPICO, Financial Services & Capital Markets, headed by CIMB and DBS, Minerals, Oil & Gas by SapuraKencana and Ilthabi Rekatama, Food & Beverages Industry spearheaded by ASEAN Food and Beverage Alliance (AFBA) and Food Industry Asia (FIA), and Retail, championed by Lippo Group and Integrated Microelectronics, Inc. (IMI). Together with CARI, independent research partners Frost & Sullivan, AT Kearney, ZICOlaw, EY, Bain & Company, Accenture and AFBA spearheaded the research for the reports.

The reports recognise the potential benefits the AEC would bring but real sectoral challenges remain and are not likely to be fully overcome before the AEC 2015 deadline. In essence, the reports identified barriers such as economic nationalism, human capital constraints, regulatory congestion, and underdeveloped infrastructure as some of the main obstacles facing integration. The reports however also provided broad- based recommendations where these barriers could be overcome.

Datuk Dr. Rebecca Santa Maria, Secretary General of Ministry of International Trade and Industry, Malaysia who officiated the launch ceremony stressed the importance of facilitating businesses in the region in order to further accelerate ASEAN integration efforts.

“It is important to focus on lifting the barriers. Otherwise, all our market access efforts would be futile, and economic integration, illusive,” said Datuk Dr. Rebecca Sta. Maria.

Tan Sri Dr. Munir Majid, Chairman of CIMB ASEAN Research Institute provided a general overview of the LTB Reports. The reports echoed the notion that specialised industry input is critical in pursuing ASEAN economic integration.

“The LTB reports are a gap analysis, but one which offers specific proposals on how to fill the gaps. As such they are a positive contribution to making the AEC a more meaningful economic reality. We will continue, through formal and informal means, to bring the findings and recommendations to the attention of policy decision-makers, top to bottom,” said Tan Sri Dr. Munir Majid.

The reports were also recently cited by the Malaysian Prime Minister YAB Datuk Sri Najib Razak as a useful private sector input which could be used by Malaysia, as the Chair of ASEAN 2015, to take stock on where and how to fill gaps between aspirations and reality.

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Tan Sri Tony Fernandes, AirAsia Group Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of ASEAN Business Club Forum 2014 urged the ASEAN business community to embrace the AEC and prepare adequately to maximise the potential presented by the AEC.

“Businesses have a responsibility to make the AEC happen. There is no need to wait for a cue from governments. But mindsets must change: both businesses and governments have to transcend the national; embrace the regional. AirAsia did it. Everyone can too,” he said.

Dato’ Sri Nazir Razak, Chairman of CIMB Group and Co-Chair of ABC Malaysia stressed the need for Malaysia to capitalise on its upcoming chairmanship of ASEAN in 2015 to tie up any further loose ends before the establishment of the AEC.

“There are many challenges faced by ASEAN home grown multi-nationals and SMEs in anticipation of the impending formation of AEC. We hope that the recommendations highlighted in the two sets of LTB reports would be considered by the policy makers to produce effective policy prescription necessary for a single market and production base of ASEAN. 2015 is a critical year for ASEAN and I hope Malaysia’s chairmanship would see that final push towards that direction,” said Dato’ Sri Nazir Razak.

As an ongoing effort to engage with the public sector, the launch of the LTB reports was held in conjunction with ABC’s country visit to Malaysia. During this visit, ABC delegates had an opportunity to listen to Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz, Governor of Bank Negara Malaysia at a special networking luncheon hosted by CIMB Group. She shared on what the business community can expect from the impending financial integration for Malaysia and ASEAN. Another speaker, Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz, former minister of international trade and industry and currently Chairman of AirAsia X, gave her views on AEC and globalisation. The ABC delegates also had a dialogue with two ministers from Prime Minister’s Department, YB Senator Dato’ Sri Abdul Wahid Omar and YB Senator Dato’ Sri Idris Jala. The visit concluded with a special meet-and-greet session with Malaysian Prime Minister YAB. Dato’ Sri Najib Tun Abdul Razak later in the evening.