The 21st ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Retreat kicked off in Malaysia’s Kota Baharu on February 28 with discussions focusing on the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).

The two-day event, which was started with a preparatory meeting of ASAN senior economic officials, is expected to debate practical integration measures for the AEC, which is scheduled to come into being before December 31 this year.

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Recommendations from the private sector and concerns over an increase in non-tariff barriers to trade in the region when the AEC is formed also top the agenda of the meeting.

Attending officials believe that the AEC, whose objective is to create a single market and production base in the region, will further foster the bloc's development and prosperity.

However, many economists said that there will be great challenges ahead for the AEC, including large differences in tax rates on intra- and trans-regional business and investment activities, different standardisations of laws and regulations on business and competition, dissimilarities in the interest and inflation rates and no ASEAN common currency.

Source: VNA