ASEAN leaders adopted a five-year integration work plan on Tuesday in Vientiane, aiming to narrow the development gap, enhance the region’s competitiveness and support the implementation of the three Community Blueprints.
The third Work Plan of the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI Work Plan III), which is an integral part of the ASEAN 2025: Forging Ahead Together, was adopted at the 28th ASEAN Summit opened on the day in the Lao capital.
Built upon the first IAI Work Plan that was launched in 2000, the IAI Work Plan III continues to provide technical assistance to Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV), which joined ASEAN between 1995 and 1999, to enhance their capacity in implementing their regional commitments, according to the ASEAN Secretariat.
The work plan focuses on five strategic areas including food and agriculture; trade facilitation; micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs); education; as well as health and well-being.
The IAI Work Plan III affirms ASEAN’s continued efforts to assist CLMV countries to meet ASEAN-wide targets and commitments towards realising the goals of the ASEAN Community.
New features in the work plan include greater involvement of CLMV officials in developing, coordinating and monitoring of activities as well as monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to track progress and measure outcomes.
Since the start of the first IAI Work Plan, more than 600 projects and activities worth over US$102 million have been implemented.
The development gap has been narrowed due to the income and trade growth of CLMV countries in the past decade (2006-2015). The average GDP growth rate of each of these countries was between 6 percent and 8.7 percent, compared to the region’s average of 5.2 percent.
Within the same period, the merchandise trade of CLMV leapt upwards by between 2.5 and 5.8 fold. CLMV countries also played an increasing role in regional trade, contributing 16.9 percent of ASEAN’s total merchandise trade of US$2.28 trillion in 2015, an increase from only 6.4 percent in 2006.
Despite the economic growth, CLMV countries, however, have the lowest incomes among ASEAN member states three of them are categorised as least-developed countries by the United Nations.
Meanwhile, the scale and complexity of ASEAN’s commitments and agreements have grown substantially as regional integration gathers pace.
Source: Vientiane Times