HMINEWS.COM-  The Asian region needs to consolidate and strengthen its subregional institutions as a stepping stone to accelerate the establishment of the Asian Economic Community (AEC), an economic expert said on Wednesday.

A senior director of the office of regional economic integration of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Srinivasa Madhur, recommended that the region strengthen subregional institutions and phase out superfluous ones.

“The existing institutions are dense but ‘light’, characterized by very limited delegated authorities,” he told a seminar on “Institutions for Integration: Toward an Asian Economic Community” at the Trade Ministry in Jakarta.

He said that to strengthen the existing subregional institutions, member-countries should delegate more responsibilities and powers to the institutions.

A 2010 ADB study on “Institutions for Asian Integration: Toward an Asian Economic Community” says that Asian governments have generally been reluctant to delegate significant powers and responsibilities to subregional and regional bodies unless they see concrete advantages.

Madhur said that another way to build the competency of those institutions was investing in stronger secretariats. The institutions also needed to establish clear and objective membership rules, he continued.

Currently, the Asia region has several subregional institutions with various functions and purposes, such as the Association of South East Asian Nations, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, the Pacific Islands Forum and the Central Asian Regional Economic Cooperation.

To accelerate the realization of the AEC, Madhur also emphasized the necessity of establishing a pan-Asian institution encompassing cooperation in all sectors, including economy.

“The pan-Asian institution will be an umbrella institution to address pan-regional issues,” he said.

The ADB study says that the proposed pan-Asian institution is needed to ensure all Asian countries are represented in regional integration and to be a vehicle through which the member-countries can represent their interests in global venues and forums.

Trade Minister Mari Elka Pangestu said that the creation of the AEC required strong political commitments from leaders of Asian countries. She said that leaders should spend more time in all regional summits they attended to discuss the regional integration issue.

She pointed out that the establishment of the AEC would meet several constraints, such as negative responses, if not resistances, from national political leaders and academicians who were afraid of negative impacts the integration might cause.

“The ADB needs to inform and communicate the importance and advantages of the integration because many people, even the more educated part of them, still don’t understand,” she said.

A senior fellow of the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a panelist in the seminar, Jusuf Wanandi, criticized the current models of cooperation in the region, saying that they had made a lot of promises and statements, but had problematic implementations.

He agreed with the trade minister that introducing the great idea of the AEC to the public was very important to prevent rejections due to lack of understanding. []dian/ham