MANILA, March 7 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has proposed that Asean member states need to revisit the old idea of sharing their domestic markets that was mooted when the regional block was set up in 1967.
The prime minister said through the concept, the Asean member countries could discuss and decide together certain major industries to be established in each country, whereby all members could capitalise on the huge market of the more than 600 million people within the region.
He said ironically the people within the region were divided as each Asean member state was focusing too much on their respective domestic market, hence, the situation would not help bring faster development and prosperity among them.
Dr Mahathir asserted that the adoption of market sharing concept among Asean member countries would be much helpful in bringing common growth, development and prosperity to the region.
This was attested by China which makes use of its population of 1.4 billion to become the world’s second biggest economic power in the world in less than 40 years, he added.
“So, China with 1.4 billion population has changed in a very short period, less then 40 years, from being a poor third world country to the second biggest economic power in the world,” he said when delivering a keynote address at the Malaysia-Philippines Business Forum here today.
Present were Malaysian Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Darell Leiking, and Philippines Secretary of Department of Trade and Industry Ramon M. Lopez.
“Now this must provide us some lessons. The big population can help us grow our countries, we have to be productive of course, but being population divided (not sharing domestic markets) is not going to be very helpful.
“Despite having 600 million people living in Southeast Asia, we are still looking at ourselves as different countries with different domestic markets. This has limited our capacity to grow,” Dr Mahathir said.
Therefore, the prime minister said the idea of sharing markets among Asean countries should be revisited and studied again as to why the regional grouping was still not able to exploit its market of 600 million people.
“But such idea could only be promoted if there are people who are willing to bring it back and restudy the whole concept. To do this, we need the major member countries of Asean to think together about rebuilding the concept of having or making good of the 600 million people in South-east Asia,” he said.
Dr Mahathir said this is the reason why Malaysia is cultivating close relations with its closer major neighbouring countries like Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines which happened to have big population and domestic markets to enable Malaysia to share their huge domestic markets.
“I am quite sure that by doing so (sharing domestic markets), Asean will grow faster and will become a powerful trading entity for the rest of the world,” he added.
The prime minister hoped that his recent visit to Indonesia and now the Philippines could awaken the old idea (of sharing domestic markets) and identify ideas where they could work together for the common prosperity.