Building financial integration for the ASEAN Economic Community of 2015

The Bank of Thailand is preparing for regional integration, including the financial integration framework under the forthcoming ASEAN Economic Community. "There's a lot to be seen, particularly the harmonisation of laws, regulations and business practices," Chim Tantiyaswasdikul, assistant governor of the BOT's Information Technology Group, said in a recent interview.

Various committees are addressing issues such as financial service liberalisation, capital-account liberalisation and payment systems integration. The objective is to free up the flow of goods, services, labour and investment within the ASEAN region by 2015, when trade and investment barriers will be lowered.

Cross-border trade is mostly conducted in US dollars and businesses complain about exchange-rate spreads and transaction fees. While a single ASEAN currency is not included in the framework, particularly given the current sovereign crisis in the Euro zone, one of the AEC financial policies is to promote the use of local currencies for intra-region trade.

As ASEAN capital market linkages make transactions among six ASEAN bourses possible, intra-regional movements of regional currencies will start to pick up and the forex market for local currencies will be expected to become more active.

Cross-border transactions are also expected to be bigger. "The number of transactions should grow immensely, as the economies in this hemisphere will be more dynamic than in the Western hemisphere," Chim said.