Asean could become the world’s fourth-largest economy by 2050, Myanmar’s President Thein Sein said at the opening of the Asean Business and Investment Summit (Abis) in Naypyitaw.
With just one year left before an Asean Economic Community becomes a reality, the regional group already has a combined GDP of US$2.5 trillion, he said yesterday.
He also said that the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a free trade agreement (FTA) scheme, will contribute to greater regional integration within and beyond Asean.
“RCEP links the economies of our region from India in the west to China, Japan and South Korea in the east and down south to New Zealand and Australia,” Thein Sein said, referring to the China-led grouping with 16 members so far, with the United States excluded.
The RCEP and the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership, which have overlapping memberships, face political and social opposition in many economies.
The two-day Abis is being held parallel to the 25th Asean summit.
Thein Sein said: “Since its inception 47 years ago, Asean has weathered the storms of economic downturns, natural disasters… but also achieved success.
“With intra-regional trade increased to US$602 billion in 2013, Asean has a great potential to maintain the momentum and eventually become the fourth-largest economy in the world by 2050.”
Separately, a study released yesterday concluded that foreign direct investment (FDI) in Asean has risen to be roughly equal to FDI in China.
Asean and the UN agency Unctad, in their Asean Investment Report 2013-2014 titled FDI Development And Regional Value Chains, said Asean had attracted FDI in excess of US$122 billion last year – up from US$114 billion in 2012.
“These numbers… suggest that the region is on investors’ radar screens and is recognised as a place to expand,” the study said.