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July 8, 2015

Asia: AEC Integration Still Work-in-Progress

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Regional and international MICE industry members at last week's Singapore MICE Forum (SMF) 2015 keynote address were told to manage their expectations regarding immediate streamlined visa, VAT and other business rules with the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) integration framework completion set for December 21, 2015.

Keynoter Ong Keng Yong, Singapore ambassador-at-large and executive deputy chairman at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said headway has been made on removing economic obstacles, but the December date is not the end of the integration process but a “milestone”.

While there will be a freer flow of goods, services and people in ASEAN, travel from Singapore to Myanmar or from Vietnam to Myanmar will still not be visa free, he said, adding Singapore still has to negotiate bilateral agreements with one or two member countries.

Nevertheless the MICE industry and service-oriented businesses will see many opportunities arise from the “standardisation of rules” and more streamlined processes for bringing in participants and products for events.

Ong said: “It will no longer be 10 different countries and 10 different sets of (economic) rules.” The focus is now on building capacity for efficient and effective implementation, he added.

Reacting to the keynote address, Aloysius Arlando, CEO, SingEx Group, acknowledged that AEC integration is still a long road and full integration “may not happen in my life time”.

Sumate Sudasna, president, Thailand Incentive and Convention, said a common language would expedite the integration process. “However, English is not the common language in many ASEAN countries. With China driving the world economy, Chinese may become the working language much like when people were willing to learn Japanese when the country was an economic powerhouse.”

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