KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia The ASEAN regional bloc should take advantage of the leadership of Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, a great world leader with excellent entrepreneurial skills, to speed up the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Blueprint 2025 agenda, said the ASEAN Traders Association (Perda-ASEAN) President Moehamad Izat Emir.

Given the similarities among the member countries, it should be easier for them to work together; and having Dr Mahathir would provide guidance for the bloc, he said.

With Dr Mahathir as the prime minister, we want to make sure that he also leads ASEAN. He is the most influential person worldwide, and now that he has become the country's seventh prime minister, we want to make full use of him, he told Bernama in an interview.

Moehamad Izat said as someone with the experience of leading a country for 22 years after becoming the fourth Malaysian prime minister (from 1981-2003), Dr Mahathir, 93, had managed to make a come back.

And now that he is back, Dr Mahathir is able to adjust accordingly to the new landscape of the world economy, with the introduction of e-commerce, for example, that can be used to facilitate trade among the ASEAN member countries via the digital platform.

This is where Perda-ASEAN will jump in, as a non-governmental organisation (NGO) to assist the integration process among ASEAN. We are a trade NGO, represented by members from various industries and disciplines � professionals from Malaysia, and other ASEAN countries, he explained.

He said the think-tank in Perda-ASEAN was currently working in line with the AEC Blueprint that aimed at achieving, among others, a highly integrated and cohesive ASEAN economy that was also competitive, innovative and dynamic; possessed enhanced connectivity and sectoral cooperation; and was integrated with the global economy.

With a population of over 630 million people, ASEAN is the world's third most populous market (behind China and India) and it is the sixth largest economy in the world with a combined gross domestic product of over US$2.4 trillion.

Moehamad Izat, who was formerly the President of the Malaysian Malay Businessmen and Industrialists Association Malaysia (Perdasama), also said Perda-ASEAN would work with government agencies to use the network's untapped potential to deal with other trading blocs.

Since our establishment in May this year, Perda-ASEAN has conducted its first round table between (South American trade bloc) Mercosur and ASEAN and it had ended with fruitful results. They will send their trade mission here this month, and we (Perda-ASEAN) will be hosting them on Oct 22, he said.

The trade mission, according to him, represents a great opportunity for entrepreneurs in ASEAN to learn what the Mercosur-ASEAN Chamber of Commerce has to offer and get great tips on doing business.

Mercosur's full members are Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, with Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Equador, Guyana, Peru and Suriname being associate members and New Zealand and Mexico observer countries.

As for Malaysia, Moehamad Izat expressed hope that with the initiatives and measures being put in place, the country could once again become an Asian tiger.

If it was previously a tiger, maybe now it is the lion of Asia. I hope Dr Mahathir can turn around this country and that all the Cabinet members under him would follow him so that together, we can make Malaysia great! he added.

Source: NAM News Network