In a statement today on the 36th ASEAN Summit, the ministry said Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin stressed that leaders, in moving beyond efforts to contain the pandemic in the region, must inculcate a similar sense of urgency to also push for economic recovery.
In his intervention, he said the public health crisis had had a profound impact on economies and rebooting the regional economy must be the grouping’s utmost priority to mitigate disruptions to trade and strengthen the resilience of the regional supply chains.
According to MITI, the prime minister made a strong case for governments to implement measures to establish “travel bubbles” -- involving the easing of travel restrictions -- between “green” ASEAN member states to shore up investments and create job opportunities.
Malaysia also broached the idea of opening up borders for intra-ASEAN tourism to flourish and provide financial boost into the region’s economies.
“Further, promoting intra-ASEAN travel and tourism will in turn generate the commercial and business spin-offs that are key to restarting the economy,” MITI said.
On that note, Malaysia shared the view of the Sultan of Brunei and President of Indonesia that ASEAN officials should begin work on establishing an ASEAN travel bubble and to explore the possibility of sectoral exemptions for travel restrictions such as medical tourism, or high-value economic visits.
In 2019, ASEAN trade reached US$2.8 trillion, of which US$619.6 billion was intra-regional.
Meanwhile, China (18.0 per cent share of total ASEAN trade), the United States (10.4 per cent), the European Union (8.7 per cent) and Japan (8.0 per cent) remain as ASEAN’s largest trade partners.
The main investors to ASEAN are the US with 15.2 per cent, Japan (12.7 per cent), Hong Kong (7.0 per cent) and China (5.7 per cent)
Despite the challenges and uncertainty faced in 2019, and notwithstanding the decline in global foreign direct investment (FDI) flows by 1.4 per cent, FDI inflows to ASEAN increased by 4.9 per cent to US$160.6 billion last year.
Senior minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali, who is MITI minister, also participated in the ASEAN Leaders Interface Session with representatives of the ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ASEAN-BAC) to discuss private sector recommendations and feedback on the implementation of ASEAN economic cooperation.
During the session, Azmin stressed that support from the business community was crucial in bolstering government initiatives in dealing with COVID-19 and called for ASEAN to take the lead in pressing for greater global battle and enhanced collaborative efforts to fight the pandemic, together with a concerted Regional Economic Recovery Plan.
As time is of the essence, he reiterated the Muhyiddin’s call for the expeditious formulation of the recovery plan as this was crucial to achieve ASEAN’s objective of greater economic integration.
“Malaysia believes that acting in a cohesive and responsive manner is not an option, but indeed an utmost necessity for ASEAN economic revitalisation,” the statement said.
Malaysia, together with ASEAN colleagues and free trade agreement partners, will continue working towards the conclusion and signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) this year which Malaysia believes would contribute to the deepening of regional economic integration and prosperity.
MITI said Azmin also underscored the imperative of enhancing ASEAN competitiveness in global trade and commerce through consistent capacity-building including the full adoption of digitalisation in all crucial areas of economic activity towards the realisation of a knowledge economy.