Bernama: NAF To Tap Business Leaders’ Expertise In Tackling Barriers That Hinder Realisation Of AEC

SINGAPORE, Aug 22 (Bernama) — Key regional business leaders from across Asean will gather for the inaugural Network Asean Forum (NAF) to brainstorm solutions to some of the issues obstructing the creation of an integrated Asean Economic Community (AEC).

The one-day forum will be held at Shangri-La Singapore Hotel here on Friday.

Speaking at a press conference here today, NAF chairman Patrick Walujo, who is also an Asean Business Club (ABC) Council Member and Managing Director of Northstar Pacific Partners, stressed the timeliness of the forum in enabling busisness leaders to discuss how to manage the targets set out by the AEC agenda.

Despite Asean’s vast potential as a global trade and commercial centre, Walujo said: “The private sector remains a largely fragmented market as member nations are at various levels of development.”

In addition, he said the recent crisis experienced by members of the Eurozone was a harsh reminder that the formation of economic blocs may carry unexpected pitfalls.

“It is for this reason that the formation of the AEC must be done carefully and in a collaborative manner involving representatives from all Asean members to ensure each party is fairly represented,” he said.

NAF Convener and CIMB Group Group Chief Executive Datuk Seri Nazir Razak pointed that there was insufficient critical mass support for Asean economic integration.

Although there has been improvement, he said much more needed to be done in these areas.

Individually, Nazir noted each of the countries within Asean — with the exception of Indonesia, represented a relatively small market.

“We want to compete with the likes of China and India, and with United States and Europe, which must recover at some point.

“To do so, we must build scale but not for scale’s sake alone. We must scale up in a sustainable and inclusive manner and that means creating a collaborative regional bloc,” he stressed.

Organised by the ABC and CIMB Asean Research Institute (CARI), NAF, a public organisation committed to realising the AEC, is premised on three goals, namely, to identify bottlenecks and barriers to free trade, construct solutions to industry specific obstacles and bring together regional business leaders to shape the Asean economic integration.

Chew Gek Khim, NAF Convener and Executive Chairman of Straits Trading Company meanwhile said: “Although we come from different industries and separate countries with our individual concern, it is for our mutual benefit that Asean succeeds.

She said the outcome of the six roundtable sessions tomorrow should be reflected in policy recommendations which will be submitted to the governments of the 10 Asean member countries.

Central to the forum is the sector-based “Lifting the Barriers” roundtable sessions.

These roundtable sessions will enable regional business leaders to discuss and construct solutions to existing and potential barriers to free trade in six key sectors namely aviation, connectivity, infrastructure, power and utilities, capital markets, financial services and healthcare.

The research partners for the sessions are National University of Singapore, Bain & Company, McKinsey & Oliver Wyman, Boston Consulting Group and Accenture.

The outcome of these roundtable discussions will be reflected in policy recommendations which will be published and presented to the policymakers.

With less than a fifth of Asean businesses having made any plans for AEC 2015, Walujo added that it was abundantly clear that anyone in a position to make policy must make aware of a key consideration.

NAF will also feature plenary sessions on topics such as the challenges of Asean as a single market, drivers for growth and investing in Asean’s future.

Forum speakers include Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who will share his vision for Singapore’s role in an integrated Asean, AirAsia founder and Group Chief Executive Officer Tan Sri Tony Fernandes, Ayala Corporation’s Jaime Augusto Zobel De Ayala and President of Bangkok Bank, Chartsiri Sophonpanich.