Mahathir Mohamad said aspects involving procedures, processes and laws need to be coordinated to strengthen trade among ASEAN countries and increase regional volume.
The Malaysian prime minister said it was among the issues raised during the session of the 34th ASEAN Summit here.
“There is concern about trade issues among ASEAN countries which only account for about 25 percent of total trade value. This value is small compared to other groups such as the European Union (EU) and the North American Union (NAU) whose trade value is between 45 and 50 percent.
“Hence, we need to make a special effort to boost trade among the 10 ASEAN countries,” he told Malaysian media after ending his four-day visit including attending the 34th ASEAN Summit here yesterday.
Dr Mahathir said the ASEAN leaders gave some ideas and views on the matter.
“We have ideas, among them by intensifying the tourism sector as well as procedures, processes and legal requirements to boost trade among ASEAN countries,” he said.
He said another idea that was triggered was how the ASEAN member states had imported goods in the region, thus introducing the country’s industry.
“We need to look into the replacement of imported goods. This is among the ways for ASEAN member countries to introduce and empower their respective countries’ industries.
“The same thing must be done in Malaysia. When we import cars, we install in Malaysia and it becomes a big business, then we can replace it with our own national car.
“I have raised the idea … we will not stop importing cars but ASEAN needs to have their own car,” he said.
Meanwhile, Dr Mahathir denied the inaction of ASEAN in the absence of various efforts in the region and sub-region, including the Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Triangle Growth Area (IMT-GT).
“Many say ASEAN is inactive. Actually many things are done in the sub-region. We are improving the communication problem so people can do business more easily in every country.
“We welcome foreign direct investment (FDI) and identify areas that can be developed. The report presented (at the summit) reveals many projects being implemented by member states.
“Most of the projects are under Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines (BIMP-EAGA) and IMT-GT East Growth Area such as roads, ports and airports,” he said.
Earlier, Dr Mahathir, who held a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister of Thailand, General Prayuth Chan o-cha, said several issues were discussed, among them strengthening ties between the two countries and the peace process in Southern Thailand.