Southeast Asian foreign ministers are finalizing a free trade agreement in meetings taking place in the capital of Laos to prepare for an annual summit.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations leaders, who begin meeting in Vientiane Monday, will adopt more than 20 agreements during the two-day summit.
A Lao government spokesman (Yong Chantalongsy) called the summit "the turning point leading to a realization of the ASEAN community by 2020."
ASEAN leaders want to turn the grouping into a regional community in order to tackle challenges such as terrorism, trade, oil prices and disease.
Summit officials say the ASEAN leaders will not address the unrest in southern Thailand or the lack of reform in military-ruled Burma because the topics are not on the agenda.