22 December 2015
The launch of the ASEAN Community has drawn lukewarm responses as ASEAN has long been compared unfavourably with the European Union. The two are fundamentally different integration projects that have evolved as alternative models to community building.
Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations at their annual summit on 22 November 2015 formally established the ASEAN Community. The realisation of the ASEAN Community is a momentous milestone in ASEAN’s history but has met with lukewarm responses from various sectors of ASEAN society. Pundits questioned whether ASEAN had really become a community – they had compared ASEAN with the European Union, and were disappointed that ASEAN does not measure up to the level of integration achieved by the EU. There was nothing like the European Parliament or the European Court of Justice. Social activists argued that the ordinary citizens of ASEAN are mostly unaware of the community-building process or see no benefit from being part of it.
The business sector claimed that commercial transactions and investments across Southeast Asia are still challenging, with high and unprofitable cost of doing business. Skilled workers cannot move or work freely across national borders as in the EU. Political strategists were not at all sure that the ASEAN Community had secured the region’s peace and stability. Economists, for their part, debated the value-added contribution of the ASEAN Community to Asia’s dynamism and growth trajectory. The bottom line, in the view of many quarters, was a negative for ASEAN’s community-building effort.
… Ong Keng Yong is Executive Deputy Chairman and Kyaw San Wai is a Senior Analyst at S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
RSIS / Online
Last updated on 23/12/2015