Dr Balakrishnan says local businesses especially Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) stand to gain, as it will allow them to expand their operations beyond Singapore. SINGAPORE: The ASEAN Community provides opportunities for Singaporeans to succeed and will contribute significantly to the region's growth, said Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan. The Community officially takes effect on Thursday (Dec 31), and ahead of that, Dr Balakrishnan heralded it as a significant milestone in ASEAN's history. The move promises greater regional economic integration, including the formation of a single market that will allow free movement of goods and services. Dr Balakrishnan said local businesses especially Small and Medium Enterprises stand to gain, as it will allow them to expand their operations beyond Singapore. By expanding their operations beyond national boundaries to the wider region, they will be able to serve ASEAN’s growing middle class, he added. Still, he noted that the region has "a lot of untapped potential” and should be capitalised on by ASEAN members. “2015 is an important juncture, but by no means the end point,” Dr Balakrishnan said. “ASEAN’s community-building is a journey, not a destination.” The formation of the ASEAN Community was 12 years in the making, and came after leaders signed a landmark declaration at the ASEAN Summit last month.