Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen called on member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to redouble their efforts to narrow the economic growth gaps between the nations during the opening of the 45th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting at Peace Palace in Phnom Penh on Monday. Hun Sen, who helms one of ASEAN's least economically competitive nations, said lessening the gap was necessary in order to achieve an effective single market and production base goal by 2015, when the ASEAN Economic Community is scheduled to launch. “Narrowing such development gaps is not only a precondition for ensuring ASEAN competitiveness and reducing poverty of our people, but also for helping ASEAN achieve real regional integration and promoting its centrality in broader regional and world affairs,” Hun Sen said. ASEAN includes wealthier states such as Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei; middle-income countries such as Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines; and developing economies in Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar. Vietnam has been fast developing in the last few years. While the overall ASEAN economy remains resilient amid the global financial crisis, the region continues to face challenges both at the global and regional levels, such as the fragile state of richer countries triggered by the economic crisis in the Eurozone, Hun Sen said. The Cambodian leader also said that ASEAN’s goal to establish a single market is being threatened by the lingering political turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa as well as high oil prices, impact of climate change and natural disasters, as well as food and energy security. Despite global factors, ASEAN economies have remained resilient and managed to gain a combined US$2.4 trillion in gross domestic product (GDP) in the past year, according to Surin Pitsuwan, ASEAN secretary general. Surin called on ASEAN economies “to complement rather than compete” with each other in terms of attracting foreign investments to be able to achieve a single market by 2015. As chair of this year’s ASEAN meetings, Cambodia will present to the region's leaders ‘The Phnom Penh Agenda’ that sets priority actions for 2012-2015. The agenda aims to fast track the ASEAN connectivity agenda that establishes infrastructure links between landlocked economies such as Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar and Cambodia with archipelagic states such as the Philippines and Indonesia.