March 28, 2013—Myanmar’s chairmanship of ASEAN Economic Ministers in 2014 will be critical to achieving the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015. This was the key message of a two-day workshop organized by Nathan Associates and moderated by James Wallar, senior vice president of Nathan Associates.
About 70 public officials and private sector representatives gathered in Nay Pyi Taw on March 21-22, 2013, to discuss the chairmanship, the benefits of the AEC, and review progress on AEC obligations by ASEAN, all member states in general, and Myanmar in particular.
In opening the workshop, U.S. Ambassador to Myanmar Derek J. Mitchell said that the AEC’s “economies of scale” offer the best opportunity for ASEAN Member States to “compete intensively for markets outside the region” while developing an environment conducive to “domestic and foreign investment at home.”
This view is supported by conservative estimates in study published in 2009. Realizing the ASEAN Economic Community: A Comprehensive Assessment suggests that the AEC could increase real incomes in ASEAN by 5.3 percent and stimulate up to a 43 percent growth in exports in many manufacturing sectors. Myanmar stands to be among those states that benefit the most, with an estimated 4.4 percent increase in national income and a 66 percent increase in exports.
U.S. Ambassador to ASEAN David Carden said that, “I have every confidence Myanmar will be a leading contributor to ASEAN integration, including economic integration.” Dr. Khin San Yee, Myanmar’s Deputy Minister for the Ministry for National Planning and Economic Development, said “Our discussions over the next two days give us a great opportunity to take stock, identify priorities and plan ahead for our role as chair to lead ASEAN in achieving its 2015 target.”
At the workshop, senior economic officials from Cambodia, Singapore, and Vietnam—member states that have held past chairmanships—shared their experiences with their counterparts in Myanmar. Officials from the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, which represents 18,000 businesses and associations, also attended.
Attendees reviewed the “scorecard” on AEC implementation for ASEAN as a region and a scorecard focused on Myanmar that indicates where Myanmar needs to accelerate preparations for its participation in the AEC and where technical assistance from dialogue partners could be beneficial.
Ms. Anna Robeniol of the ASEAN Secretariat said that “There is much to be done if ASEAN is to achieve the 2015 AEC target. Under the AEC we are moving towards the creation of a collective wealth that will benefit all of us. But there is no free lunch. There is a need for each and every member state to be responsible and committed.”
The workshop was organized by the ASEAN-U.S. Technical Assistance and Training Facility, which is managed by Nathan Associates and funded by USAID and U.S. Department of State.