BANGKOK: A feasibility study released Saturday at the ASEAN+6 economic ministers' meeting indicated that establishment of a free trade area within the member countries will result in 1.3 percent increase in their GDP.
The study was presented at the meeting where the ASEAN Economic Ministers met with their counterparts from six dialogue partners, namely China, ROK, Japan, India, Australia and New Zealand.
The ministers noted that if the member countries establish a free trade agreement among them, the GDP of the member countries will increase by 1.3 percent; For ASEAN alone, ASEAN's GDP will increase by 3.83 percent.
The ministers viewed this integration as a very crucial step for the region. Therefore, they tasked government officials of the 16 countries to make further research based on the recommendations of the feasibility study in order to evaluate which direction they should proceed in the future.
The statement after the meeting said that at present, East Asia has increased her role and importance in the world economy. East Asia's economies accounted for 26 percent of the world's GDP, and 49.6 percent of the world's population. Their population is seven times larger than the populations of the European Union and NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement).
Based on the aforementioned statistics, if the countries of East Asia successfully integrate their economies, it will strengthen their regional trade relations. Due to the size of the economies of the grouping, member countries will be less dependable on imports from outside the region.
Currently, ASEAN has concluded free trade agreements with all six dialogue partner countries, namely ASEAN-Japan, ASEAN-China, ASEAN-ROK, ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand and ASEAN-India Free Trade Agreements.
The ASEAN+6 ministerial meeting is a part of the Meeting of ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) and Related Meetings, which officially kicked off on Friday in Bangkok and concludes on Sunday.