Southeast Asia aims to craft a charter by next year as part efforts to push forward by five years plans to fuse its diverse economies into a European-style group, senior officials said.
Foreign ministers meeting in Kuala Lumpur have said they discussed ways to accelerate the creation of a regional economic community from 2020 to 2015, a statement that followed the recent collapse of World Trade Organisation talks designed to liberalise commerce.
A charter for the economic integration of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, is being drafted and may be ready by the time Singapore hosts regional heads of state next year, Singaporean Foreign Minister George Yeo said on Tuesday night.
The proposal for the acceleration would be presented to leaders meeting in the Philippines at the end of this year, Yeo said.
The creation of a unified ASEAN bloc by 2015 would allow for a free flow of goods, services and human resources across the region, but will not include a single currency system, ASEAN officials say.
Singapore, the most economically advanced nation in the bloc, and Thailand, promoted the acceleration, Yeo told reporters.
"The others are not averse to it, but that's for the leaders to decide," he said. "It's very important that we integrate ASEAN because the world is changing rapidly.