Members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have voted to speed integration of 11 industry sectors to create a single regional market.
Indonesian Trade Minister Rini Suwandi announced the fast-track action Tuesday at a ministerial meeting in Jakarta.
The group's 10 members had originally set 2010 as the deadline for integrating the sectors, which include automobiles, textiles, electronics, agriculture, information technology, health care, air travel and tourism. But the ASEAN members voted Tuesday to move that deadline up by two years.
Ms. Suwandi says ASEAN's members are hopeful that some of the sectors can be integrated by 2005. She says more rapid integration is necessary to compete with other regional economic blocs, such as the European Union.
ASEAN ministers will meet again in Singapore in April to develop a road map and a more detailed schedule.
In other business at Tuesday's meeting, ASEAN members met with EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy to discuss recent stalled talks with the World Trade Organization on economic cooperation.
ASEAN's membership includes Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore, Laos, Cambodia, the Philippines, Burma and Thailand.
Information for this report is provided by AFP and Reuters.