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Saturday, November 08, 2008

South-East Asian countries seek economic integration

South-East Asian countries seek economic integration

(lefrt-right) Prime Ministers Thein Sein from Myanmar, Samchai Wongsawat from Thailand, Nguyen Tan Dung from Vietnam, Hun Sen from Cambodia and Bouasone Bouphavanh from Laos at a summit summit in Hanoi (AFP/Hoang Dinh Nam)

Business News (monstersandcritics.com)
Nov 7, 2008

Hanoi - The global financial crisis might bring economic benefits for countries in South-East Asia, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Friday at a regional summit in Hanoi.

'The rich people in Europe, the buyers in America will not buy expensive clothes produced in Europe anymore but the cheaper goods produced in Cambodia and Vietnam,' Sen said.

Most of the other businessmen and political leaders at the summit focused on the need to integrate South-East Asian economies to create a larger market more resilient to economic shocks.

They met at the Arrawaddy-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy summit, which brings together Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam in a rivers-related regional development forum initiated by former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra in 2003.

The vice chairman of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce, Hoang Van Dung, said the five countries should focus on harmonizing regulations, eliminating duplicate customs inspections and creating a single regional travel card to promote tourism.

Oknha Kith Meng, president of the Cambodian Chamber of Commerce, said the region should expect severe economic challenges as reduced demand in their wealthy export markets made itself felt.

'These problems that we face are not of our making,' Meng said. 'However, we have to expect that our economies will be buffeted by this global storm.'

Myanmar Prime Minister Thein Sein hailed the establishment of an East-West transit corridor to link his country's Indian Ocean coastline with Vietnam's ports on the South China Sea. Sein also said the regional development forum had played a role in encouraging Thai investment in Myanmar, which reached 4 billion dollars in the past fiscal year, which ended in March.

Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat said the regional road network constructed under a framework called GMS was nearly complete but said better customs coordination and more industrial zones along the transit network were still needed.

Somchai called on forum members to enhance 'self-reliance' within the region, to create more intraregional trade and cushion the impact of the global financial crisis.

More than 350 business representatives from South-East Asia and the region's trading partners, including Japan, the United States, Russia and South Korea attended the conference.

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