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Commentary: Phnom Penh summit prepares Asia to be world’s new engine of growth

PHNOM PENH, Nov. 18 (Xinhua) — The economic integration of the ten-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and their East Asian neighbors could help inject vitality to the wobbling global economy.

The lingering debt crisis in the Euro zone, the fiscal cliff and flagging employment in the United States, along with Japan’s public debts, have dealt serious blow to the developed economies, yet emerging Asian economies, especially the ASEAN nations, are revving up regional integration and gearing up to become the world ‘ s new engine of growth.

The bloc is also attracting key global powers, which heretofore have been geographically detached, to participate in its economic dynamism. After a decade of distraction and over emphasis in its relations with countries in the Middle East, the U.S. is finally embarking on what it termed as “strategic rebalancing” toward the Asia and Pacific region.

In the on-going ASEAN summit and related meetings here, the U.S. and the ASEAN are set to upgrade their ties to “strategic partnership”. For the first time, the International Monetary Fund( IMF) will also hold talks with ASEAN, another clear sign that the world’s financial institutions have realized the bloc’s strategic importance to the world economy.

A more ambitious plan, designed to expand free trade scope, will give Asian countries a further push towards a united economic giant.

Leaders of both ASEAN countries and six key Asia Pacific powers, including China, Australia, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand, will launch the negotiation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) during the meetings.

The RCEP is designed to tear down tariff barriers and beef up regional inter-connection in trade and investment.

The RCEP is also expected to potentially transform nations in the region into the world’s biggest integrated market comprising over 3 billion people with a combined GDP of nearly 20 trillion U. S. dollars.

The Phnom Penh summit will also help move ASEAN political- security and social-culture integration a step forward, with the endorsement of a slew of documents, including ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, Terms of Reference of the ASEAN Institute for Peace and Reconciliation, and ASEAN Agreement on Trafficking in Persons.

Established in 1967, the cooperation mechanism within the ASEAN has undergone long-term discussions and could become a pragmatic and potent tool to further boost regional growth.

As pointed out by China’s Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying, the cooperation mode of East Asian nations is being done in a coordinated and gradual manner and cognizant of the cultural, historic and national aspirations of the various countries in the region. The foundation of the mechanism lies in adherence to dialogue and cooperation which are very important in achieving common development and prosperity.

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