The 21st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and concurrent meetings will be held during November 18-20 in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh. Participants will include heads of ASEAN member states along with leaders from their dialogue partners, namely the US, China, South Korea, Japan, India, Australia, New Zealand and Russia. The summit's main item of agenda will be ASEAN's goal of becoming an ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). Thailand will use this venue to engage in bilateral discussions with Myanmar on progress toward the Dawei Special Economic Zone (SEZ) project and related projects in Myanmar's Taninthayi region.
Among the issues that will draw international interest is a joint statement on negotiations toward the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), or ASEAN+6 FTA. If this agreement can be reached by 2015, it will create a new free trade bloc among nations that have not entered FTAs before, including China, Japan, South Korea or India, with ASEAN acting as the converging mediary of this economic cooperation. It is expected that the RCEP will help support economic growth and investment within ASEAN, though certain issues such as South China Sea territorial disputes might affect the progress of this cooperation.
It is clearly evident that regional cooperation has been an important impetus for economic development within ASEAN, as reflected in its strong economic growth over the years. In 2011, economic growth in ASEAN averaged 5-6 percent and intra-regional trade grew 18 percent YoY, while foreign direct investment (FDI) into the region has also increased steadily. It is expected that strong interdependence among ASEAN member states will continue to enhance regional economic stability and ease external risks in the period ahead.
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