Under the Asean Economic Community (AEC), a single regional common market of Asean countries will be created by 2015. The regional integration's objective is to create a competitive market of over 600 million people in Asean countries: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. There will be free flow of goods, services, investment capital and skilled labor following the liberalization. These will include tariff reductions and streamlining of certain administrative procedures. Many businesses have begun preparing themselves three years ahead of time to meet the challenges and opportunities of the Asean Economic Community (AEC).
Even though, according to the Bangkok Post newspaper in Thailand, the AEC Scorecard at the moment shows the region behind schedule, having achieved only 73.6% of Phase 1 goals, it still offers a big opportunity in Asia as it will be viewed as a single large market. Further. the integration will help increase Asean competitiveness with China and India. The delayed issues, such as agriculture, non-tariff barriers, integration of the less-developed CLMV (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), Vietnam) members, and financial integration remain to be worked out. According to the US International Trade Commission report on AEC (www.usasean.org/ASEAN/pub4176.pdf), the challenges were seen in the area of importing and exporting which vary widely among Asean members. For example, procedures for trading are relatively easy to complete in Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia, but very difficult in Laos and Cambodia. The quality of logistics services also varies among the Asean members, such as customs brokerage, freight forwarding, and express delivery. Logistics services are world-class in Singapore but poor in Laos, Cambodia, and Burma. In many Asean countries, restrictive regulations hamper the delivery of high-quality logistics services.
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