Southeast Asia is gearing up to become a global hub for the production and sale of environmentally friendly cars, a Thai deputy cabinet minister said on Thursday.

Trade ministry officials from members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) assigned regional industry bodies on Thursday to draft common guidelines for green cars, hoping to leverage Thailand's role as an auto manufacturing hub and large car markets in Indonesia and Malaysia.

ASEAN's aim is to be a global auto production base, Deputy Commerce Minister Alongkorn Polabutr told a news conference.

As Thailand is already the Detroit of Asia and Malaysia and Indonesia are huge auto markets, we should all cooperate to develop the auto industry.

The officials assigned automotive industry groups in ASEAN, such as the ASEAN Automobile Federation, to come up with the future guidelines for green and clean vehicles, Alongkorn said.

Thailand was already pursuing this route by promoting a policy for a flexible fuel vehicle, which can use a mixed fuel with up to 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, he said.

We want our cars to contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas, he said.

Commerce Minister Porntiva Nakasai said ASEAN trade ministry officials, at a meeting with auto industry representatives, urged governments to help offset falling sales by speeding up tariff cut commitments under AFTA, the region's free trade area agreement, providing loans to SMEs and speeding up electronic customs.

Southeast Asia has long struggled with air pollution stemming from weak or unenforced controls on vehicle emissions.

(Reporting by Nopporn Wong-Anan; Editing by John Ruwitch and Ron Popeski)