Fresh worries over turbulence in world economy has heightened the need for an ASEAN single integrated economic bloc or the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).
"In this difficult and challenging circumstances, it emphasises the point for us to work even harder to achieve closer economic integration," International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said at a press conference today, on the last day of the four-day AEM and related meetings.
"There have been a lot of success stories and one lesson we can learn from the current volatility is that there is even a greater requirement for us be closer and coordinate our policy," he added.
Mustapa pointed out that ASEAN dialogue partners and private business communities have expressed their confidence in ASEAN's dynamics and prospects.
"They gave positive remarks and viewed ASEAN as a single integrated market, playing the catalyst in promoting trade, investment and liberalisation in the wider east Asian region," he added.
Mustapa emphasised that the AEC, to be set up in four months, was to fulfill two very important objectives - to increase intra-ASEAN trade and investment; and make ASEAN more attractive to business.
Intra-ASEAN exports remained resilient at 25.5 per cent of ASEAN's total exports, while Intra-ASEAN FDI also continued to grow and accounted for an increasing share of total FDI inflows to the region, reaching 17.9 per cent or US$24.4 billion in 2014 as compared to only 11.3 per cent in 2007.
Total FDI inflows to the region in 2014 is the highest to date at US$136.2 billion, amounting to 160 per cent of the pre-crisis level inflows in 2007 when the AEC Blueprint was first adopted.
This strong growth of intra-ASEAN investment reflects the positive impact of ASEAN economic integration on stimulating investment within the region.
During the meeting, Mustapa said 91.5 per cent of the AEC initiatives, which comprised 506 measures, were completed.
Issues on transport, finalisation of the 10th ASEAN Framework Agreement on Services and the ASEAN Single Window, are among the remaining 8.5 per cent expected to be completed by November, he said.
ASEAN ministers also pledged to complete the strategic action plans for strategic measures listed in the Post-2015 AEC document by no later than April 2016.
They expressed concerns over issues beleaguering their countries and economies such as natural disasters like floods and droughts which affected their agriculture sector thus jeopardising their livelihood.
The issue of the Chinese Renmimbi's devaluation was also discussed amid speculation that it would probably spark a series of currency war among Asian currencies especially with the Vietnamese dong following suit.
In supporting SMEs' role in ASEAN integration, ASEAN ministers recognised the continuing efforts to improve SMEs access to information, markets, finance and human capital development.
By 2025, the AEC is envisioned to be highly integrated and cohesive; competitive, innovative and dynamic; with enhanced economic connectivity as well as integration and cooperation across sectors; while fostering a more resilient, inclusive, and people-oriented, people-centred community that is integrated into the global economy.
A series of bilateral meetings between ASEAN economic ministers and dialogue partners, including with the US, Japan and Russia, were also among major events during the AEM with fruitful results.
A historic achievement was made during the ninth Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership meeting, where member countries agreed on the modalities in goods.
RCEP is a free trade agreement between ASEAN countries and Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, South Korea and India.