MANILA -- The establishment of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Economic Community (AEC) has benefited businesses and consumers, as well as offered prospects for increasing trade with trading partners.

Lim Hong Hin, Deputy Secretary General of ASEAN for AEC, said ASEAN is now the world’s sixth largest economy, with total trade in the region reaching USD 2.5 trillion.

“You can see that some initiatives are paying off. (These are) allowing the consumers to have a greater market access for more competitive products at competitive prices,” he said in an interview with the Philippine News Agency here this week.

The AEC was formally established on Dec. 31, 2015 which marked an important milestone in the region’s move towards deeper regional economic integration. Under the AEC vision, goods, investments and capital flow freely.

“It created a demand for local products and services because of FTA (free trade agreements), investors coming to the country. We have also put in place a law legal framework especially in sectoral side, like intellectual property rights,” Lim said.

AEC brief said negotiations of the ASEAN-Hong Kong, China FTA are on track towards the targeted conclusion this year.

Formal region-to-region talks on a framework setting out the parameters of a future FTA between ASEAN and the European Union has also been launched.

ASEAN also remains committed to the swift conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the centerpiece of ASEAN’s external economic relations work.

“ASEAN could also leverage on the momentum from its new phase of regional integration to further boost intra-regional linkages in trade and investment, thus reducing its vulnerabilities to external shocks,” it added.

Lim further said the AEC has also promoted the development of industries, created opportunities and jobs in the region.

“We have also consumer protection what we call arrangement that allows people to address what we call consumer redressing, how to complain when you don’t get what you buy for,” he added.

ASEAN groups 10 countries — Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. (PNA)