DAVAO CITY (MindaNews) – The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) must sit down and think as one community to address terrorism and negotiate as one bloc with major global trading partners for free trade agreements in the 31st ASEAN Summit slated in Manila next week, business leaders from Davao City said Friday.
Ronald Go, Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. (DCCCII) president told MindaNews the ASEAN leaders must “let go of their propensity to think in terms of the interest solely of their countries.”
He said they need to arrive at a masterplan underlining the competitive advantages of each country in terms of food production, manufacturing and other industries.
“This plan should detail what particular countries can produce certain commodities or items efficiently and at the least cost to Asean members,” he said.
Go added the heads of ASEAN and their ministers must devise a system where all member states can cooperate rather than compete to achieve synergistic growth among them.
Alexander Valoria, Anflo Management and Investment Corporation president said he hopes to see the ASEAN negotiate as one bloc for free trade agreements with Japan, South Korea, US and China.
Citing the Central America-Korea Free Trade Agreement, Valoria said six Central American countries – Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama – formed a single bloc and held seven negotiations with South Korea that lasted 17 months before signing an FTA in October 2016.
He said the FTA covers 95 percent of the products from the Central American countries such as bananas and pineapple.
Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association executive director Stephen Antig said he hopes they would further discuss strengthening economic cooperation and harmonize trade and export protocols.
He also wanted the ASEAN leaders to come out with joint actions against terrorism.
DCCCII chair Antonio Dela Cruz echoed the same sentiment saying they need to talk about regional security.
Dela Cruz said he also wants ASEAN leaders and their ministers address issues concerning the micro, small and medium enterprises and globalization.
The Philippines chairs the ASEAN this year, which coincides with the regional bloc’s 50th anniversary. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)