The 41st ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting (AEM) and related meetings opened here on Friday under the theme: "Walk Together, Work Together towards AEC".
The 41st AEM meeting and the related meetings are essential for setting directions for economic policies within the ASEAN member countries and also for setting guidelines for relationships among the ASEAN countries and with other dialogue partners.
During the AEM meeting, the ASEAN-China Investment Agreement will be signed.
Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister Korbsak Sabhavasu, who presided over the official opening ceremony, said he is most certain that "the goal for ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) can be realized in the near future. This would undoubtedly create a true single market and production base where our goods, services and investment can flow freely across the region and benefit our people."
Moreover, Korbsak said it is crucial that the ASEAN region will be the outward-looking group since it is essential to live harmoniously within other community in the world as the ultimate goal for ASEAN integration.
"What I mean is ASEAN needs to establish itself as the economic center of Asia by expanding our outreach to important trading partners. The ASEAN centrality is important in conveying to the world that ASEAN is ready to engage in a meaningful integration among ourselves and to the world," he said.
Meanwhile, the Thai deputy premier, who is in charge of the economic affairs, said that as the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015 should not be the end goal as the ASEAN group should be thinking about the ASEAN vision and dream after the AEC is realized.
After the AEC realization, the group should strengthen the ASEAN institutions, including ASEAN Community Council, Committee of Permanent Representatives, and the ASEAN Secretariat as these will be the mechanisms to propel the work of ASEAN in the future, he said.
The 41st meetings have been focusing on the economic integration within the ASEAN region as the ASEAN Economic Community is expected to complete in 2015, in which investment, capital and skilled labor can flow freely.
Apart from the economic ministers' meeting, on Saturday Thailand will host the AEM plus three meeting (China, Japan and Republic of Korea), and plus six meeting (China, Japan, Republic of Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and India).
Prior to this Friday's official opening ceremony, on Wednesday high level officials from the 10 ASEAN-member countries began discussing and setting up economic policies and topics prior to submitting to the related ministers on these following days.
On Thursday, one historic event occurred as the ASEAN economic ministers and Indian Minister of Commerce and Industry Anand Sharma signed a long-awaited free trade agreement (FTA) for trade in goods after over six years of intense negotiations.