ASEAN now looking beyond economic integration in 2015

ASEAN is already looking beyond the Community of 2015's integrated economy. "One of the key ideas of Indonesia's chair of ASEAN this year is how ASEAN needs to start to see beyond 2015," Sundram Pushpanathan, Deputy Secretary-General for the ASEAN Economic Community, told Xinhua news agency.

"ASEAN integration must benefit every segment of the bloc, not just some of the key countries, but everybody in ASEAN. How do we go forth? That's one of our concerns," he said.

"We need trade facilitation and investment facilitation as well as small medium enterprise development," he said, adding that 96% of all industry in ASEAN is SME-status. "They have to look across the borders and trade across the borders. SME becomes important as the growth part of ASEAN. SME development is another aspect of integration," he said.

"Because ASEAN is growing, we need more and more energy. So, how do we manage the energy situation? (We need to) create ASEAN integrated energy market, looking at building gas pipeline across ASEAN countries and electricity grid across ASEAN countries," he said.

"How do we feed the population? How do we share? We are both the biggest exporter of food and at the same time, country like the Philippines is the biggest rice importer. How do we benefit from having a good and efficient food security system within ASEAN," he queried.

Mr Pushpanathan stressed that ASEAN countries needed also to focus more on environmental protection.