Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has praised this year’s full implementation of the Asean Free Trade Area (Afta), which will see tariffs on virtually all imports eliminated across the region.

Afta is a major component in the Asean project and is seen as vital to members forming a cost competitive production base. Najib said that although the region was diverse, members were united by a common desire to uplift and transform individual economies and this would help integrate Asean into the New World Order. The recent global financial crisis presented an opportunity for Asean to work with the West to find new solutions.

Asean was becoming more confident at coping with greater integration, and this enabled the bloc to deal better with issues like financial contagion from the current European debt crisis, Najib also said. It would also help the bloc enhance its ties with other major Asian economies like Japan, South Korea, China and India.

Asean, or the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, was formed in August 1967 by Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Thailand. It expanded to include Brunei when it became independent and then again to the “CMLV countries” (Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam), who were given extra time to comply with Afta’s tariff elimination requirements.

source & article: The Edge Malaysia