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    Nov 23, 2015

    Asean leaders sign single market pact

    THE Asean Community was officially declared yesterday in Kuala Lumpur by leaders of the 10 member states of Asean, in a landmark moment promising greater regional integration for the 48-year-old grouping.

    Twelve years in the making, the foremost goal of the Asean Community is to turn the region into a single market and production base by eliminating remaining trade barriers and harmonising standards.

    All 10 leaders, including Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, signed a declaration on the establishment of the Asean Community, which will come into effect on Dec 31, as well as a declaration on a blueprint for taking the grouping forward over the next decade.

    In practice, Asean countries have already done away with most tariff barriers, and increasing the competitiveness of Asean's manufacturing industry in the global market and reducing costs for everyone, said Asean chairman Najib Razak.

    "We now have to ensure that we create a truly single market and production base, with freer movement of goods and services," said the Malaysian Prime Minister.

    "For that, with common standards, far greater connectivity and the removal of the barriers that make our borders a hindrance to growth and investment, will be one that is primed to expand exponentially."

    The combined gross domestic product of Asean economies is expected to grow from US$2.6 trillion (S$3.7 trillion) to US$4.7 trillion by 2020.

    Seen as a bloc it will be the seventh largest economy today, and has the potential to be the fourth largest in the world as early as 2030.