KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Ten Southeast Asian heads of state and nine world leaders, including President Barack Obama, are meeting in Malaysia to discuss trade and economic issues. Terrorism and disputes over the South China Sea are also on the agenda. (All times local):
Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia says Southeast Asia will be the fourth-largest market in the world by 2050, thanks to the formation of a regional economic community.
Najib was speaking at a business conference Friday, held on the sidelines of a series of summits this weekend, led by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN.
He says: "The coming into being of the ASEAN community marks a new beginning for more than 630 million people, the birth of an integrated region — an entity that is a global economic force."
ASEAN is scheduled to formally sign on Sunday a charter to announce the creation of the ASEAN Economic Community.
Najib says "as a single market ... ASEAN will be the fourth largest in the world by 2050, at the latest."
He says that last year, collective foreign investment in the region hit $136 billion, more than in the U.S. or China. He says ASEAN is expected to post an average annual GDP growth of 5.6 percent through to 2019.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak says the formation of the ASEAN Economic Community will benefit poor and unskilled workers.
He says strong economic growth and an inflow of foreign direct investments have created jobs, with the average ASEAN unemployment rate at a low of 3.3 percent. He said this in an interview with national news agency Bernama published Friday.
He said there are huge opportunities for skilled workers, as countries look to grow from higher value-added activities and knowledge-based sectors.
ASEAN is a grouping of 10 countries in Southeast Asia. It embarked on the creation of a Europe-like economic community a decade ago, and it will be formally declared as an entity at the grouping's summit this weekend.
Najib says there is still more work to be done, as creating an integrated economic community cannot be done overnight.
Malaysian police say they have stepped up security significantly for a regional leaders' summit this weekend amid unconfirmed reports of the presence of Islamic State suicide bombers in Kuala Lumpur.
National police chief Khalid Abu Bakar says reports of imminent threats in Malaysia "have yet to be confirmed." An internal police memo that was leaked on social media this week warned the Islamic State has suicide bombers in Kuala Lumpur and in Sabah state on Borneo island.
Khalid said in a statement late Thursday that security has been tightened for the regional summit involving 18 world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, in the wake of last week's deadly attacks in Paris.
Malaysia has detained about 150 suspects since 2013, some who were allegedly plotting attacks in the country.