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ASEAN Foreign Ministers Endorse Economic Community

Foreign ministers of 10 Southeast Asian nations have agreed on a plan to create a European-style economic community over the next two decades.

The ministers reached agreement on a draft policy statement Sunday, ahead of a summit by leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

ASEAN leaders will finalize the policy statement during the summit Tuesday and Wednesday on the bomb-scarred Indonesian resort island of Bali. They also will to integrate trade and security with China, India, Japan and South Korea.

The draft statement focuses on new initiatives for economic integration and security. It endorses a plan for an ASEAN Economic Community that would bond the 10 members in much the way European countries tightened their commercial ties before the advent of the European Union. Its goal is to create a vast free trade zone and a single market of more than 500 million people by 2020.

The statement also endorses Indonesia's proposal for a similar ASEAN Security Community to deal with terrorism, drug trafficking, human smuggling and other international crimes.