The Association of Southeast Asian Nations has agreed to accelerate plans to form a single economic community by five years. This is in response to growing competition for investment from fast-growing Chinese and Indian economies, Asean officials said on Tuesday.

The trade ministers from Asean’s 10 member states are attending a meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia where they made the decision to set up a single trading market, similar to the European Union, by 2015. The union will be known as the Asean Economic Community. Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi said Asean risked losing its position as an investment destination if it did not accelerate integration among its 10-member economies.

“As the ASEAN community becomes increasingly integrated into the global economy, we need to monitor developments in other regional groupings and initiatives by ASEAN's major trading partners entering into various forms of trading arrangements with others,” Badawi said according to Voice of America.

Asean leaders are currently engaged in talks to establish free trade with the US, its main trading partner. They are also expected to lift “all forms of restrictions” that affect trade so the market can be open to all, without access limitations.

The 39-year-old Asean group began liberalizing trade between its members in 1993. Its members are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.