Semarang, 19 August 2023 (TDI): Dr Kao Kim Hourn, Secretary-General of ASEAN, attended the 55th ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) meeting held from 19-20 August 2023 in Semarang, Indonesia.

Under the theme “ASEAN Matters: Epicentrum of Growth,” the event held regional economic discussions and was spearheaded by H.E. Bahlil Lahadalia, Indonesia’s Minister of Investment.

The gathering delved into the region’s macroeconomic landscape, investment trends, and the developments made in the ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement (ACIA).

A notable highlight was the near-finalization of the 5th Protocol to Amend the ACIA, with an eye on its signing in 2024.

Moreover, Dr Kao participated in ASEAN Tariff Finder, launched by AEM. The Tariff Finder is an online platform that offers ASEAN nations and stakeholders better access to trade-related details, such as tariffs, product rules, customs procedures, and import-export requirements.

All in all, it aims to help streamline trade information, ensuring that traders can harness the full potential of ASEAN’s free trade agreements (FTA).

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Moving on, Dr Kao also provided insights on Timor-Leste’s bid for ASEAN membership and the recommendations of the 43rd High-Level Task Force on ASEAN Economic Integration (HLTF-EI).

He championed the progress in ASEAN’s economic community endeavours, emphasizing the need for united efforts to spur economic revival, embrace digital transformation, and fast-track ASEAN’s sustainable development objectives.

Furthermore, Dr Kao actively participated in the 21st consultation of AEM with the ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ASEAN BAC).

This interaction paved the way for valuable insights from the private sector, reinforcing the importance of economic integration and lauding ASEAN BAC’s significant role in the region.

Fundamentally, the AEM meeting was preceded by a preparatory session involving the ASEAN Senior Economic Officials (SEOM), coupled with joint discussions with the 37th ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) Council and the 26th ASEAN Investment Area (AIA) Council.


The ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement (ACIA) is ASEAN’s chief strategy for promoting an open investment landscape.

Designed as a key economic tool, the ACIA focuses on fostering an investment environment in ASEAN that is open, competitive, and transparent.