On Wednesday, March 22, 2023, the 29th ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) Retreat was hosted by the Ministry of Trade in Magelang, Central Java. During the meeting, Indonesia manages to influence the AEM to approve seven Priority Economic Deliverables within the specific framework of AEM. The chair of the 29th AEM Retreat was the Minister of Trade of Indonesia Zulkifli Hasan.
“The 29th AEM Retreat is the first meeting at the level of ASEAN Economic Ministers during Indonesia’s Chairmanship of ASEAN in 2023. This meeting is an important momentum because Indonesia has succeeded in encouraging ministers to ratify seven Priority Economic Deliverables and 48 Annual Priorities of 2023,” said Zulkifli, as quoted from Asean2023.id.
The 7 priorities
During the meeting, there are seven priorities were deliberated upon, including:
- The services facilitation framework in ASEAN;
- The signing of the 2nd protocol to amend the agreement on the establishment of the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area;
- Establishment of the ministry’s approval support unit for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) at the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta;
- Project-Based ASEAN Industrial Development;
- Full implementation of form D electronic certificate of origin through the ASEAN Single Window;
- Statement of ASEAN leaders to develop an ASEAN Digital Economy Framework Agreement (DEFA); and
- The roadmap of ASEAN harmonized standards to support Sustainable Development Goals.
More important issues
Not only issues about ASEAN in general and in business, but they also discussed other important topics, such as:
- The latest developments in the Digital Economy Framework Agreement (DEFA) study;
- Upgrading the Agreement on Trade in Goods in ASEAN (ATIGA);
- Free Trade Agreement (FTA) Priorities for 2023 which include upgrading the ASEAN-China FTA, and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP) implementation; and
- The roadmap for Timor Leste’s membership in ASEAN.
The meeting marked Timor Leste’s debut as the 11th member of ASEAN at the level of the AEM. The Minister of Tourism, Trade and Industry of Timor Leste Jose Lucas do Carno da Silva was present in the meeting.
Also on the same day, the ministers conducted a Consultation Session with the ASEAN-Business Advisory Council (ASEAN-BAC).
The session revolved around five topics related to:
- Digital transformation;
- Sustainable development;
- Health resilience;
- Food security; and
- The facilitation of trade and investment.
“The ASEAN-BAC meeting aims to encourage increased trade in ASEAN and strengthen cooperation and collaboration between the government and business actors,” said Zulkifli, as quoted from Asean2023.id.
History of AEM
The AEM is a high-level meeting of economic ministers from the member states of the ASEAN. It was established in 1967 in Bangkok, Thailand, to promote economic cooperation and integration among ASEAN member states.
At its inception, the AEM focused primarily on reducing barriers to trade and investment within the ASEAN region, such as tariffs.
Over the years, the AEM’s scope has expanded to encompass a broader range of economic issues.
Some of the key milestones in the history of the AEM include the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2003, which aimed to create a single market and production base within ASEAN.
In recent years, the AEM has also focused on promoting digital integration and innovation within ASEAN while also developing policies and initiatives to support the growth of the digital economy and enhance connectivity among ASEAN member states.