Asia Economy

Southeast Asia will have integrated market by year-end

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The project to build an integrated Southeast Asian market will be rolled out by the end of this year, but currency integration is not on the cards yet, said a senior official of the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council.

"It's probably not on the (meeting) agenda at the moment…Each one of the ASEAN has a different kind of financial district and financial regulations. The merging of that and the harmonization of that is going to be difficult," said Michael Michalak at the sidelines of the ASEAN Business Summit in Kuala Lumpur.

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The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is a group of 10 regional countries.

The ASEAN Economic Community project due around year-end aims to launch a single market for goods, services, capital and labor across the bloc. The hope is that companies and investors will take advantage of easier logistics to enter the region's frontier markets.

HSBC Malaysia chief executive Mukhtar Hussain said that a lot of the momentum building up till now revolves around policy cohesion and aligning countries, governments and policymakers on the benefits of the integration.

"The challenge is the implementation and putting in practical effect the measures that have been discussed among policymakers for some time," said Mukhtar.

Currency union in particular will be a "long way" off as immediate priorities are the liberalization of trade, investment and capital flows.

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Most ASEAN countries have managed to meet 90 to 95 percent of their commitments for the rollout of the AEC, said Michalak

"The proof in pudding; we need to see how that translates into real dollars and cents for investors," said Michalak.

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