The blueprint for Asean’s future will top the agenda for the 27th regional summit in November 21 in Kuala Lumpur.
The 2025 blueprint is expected to plan the future of the bloc for the next decade.
“We are not there yet. We are pushing as much as we can,” said Mustapa Mohamed, Malaysia’s minister of trade and industries.
“Of course we only have a week to go. There has been much progress since we last met in July,”
Malaysia is chairing the bloc this year as it gears up for the long-awaited launch of its single-market Asean Economic Community (AEC).
Its targets include the removal of tariffs and the free movement of goods, services, capital and labour.
However, its implementation will prove challenging while nearly a third of the region’s 630 million citizens earn less than US$3 a day with millions in dire poverty.
“The experience from the European Economic Community is that when you have great disparity in progress and development, it’s harder to integrate the system. Whether it’s labour movement or cross-border investment, you are going to have a lot of problems,” said Wong Chen, a People’s Justice Party economist.
Islamic militancy and territorial disputes in the South China Sea form stumbling blocks for regional development. Four members, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei, have overlapping claims with China.
Asean failed to produce a joint statement during a meeting of defence ministers two weeks ago in Kuala Lumpur due to differences over maritime matters.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak is expected to steer discussions towards the declaration of the formation of the AEC to boost economic integration, eliminate duties and streamline business procedures.
Representatives from “dialogue partners” Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea and the USA will attend for the East Asia summit.
Trade within the bloc has grown from US$402 billion in 2007 to US$608 billion in 2014, far more than its US$366 billion with China.