The Association of Southeast Asian Nations came into being on 8 August 1967 with five founding nations – Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Brunei Darussalam joined ASEAN in 1984, while Viet Nam entered ASEAN in 1995, Lao PDR and Myanmar in 1997 and Cambodia in 1999.
The entry of the latter four member states into ASEAN raised concerns over the possible emergence of a “two-tier ASEAN.” This “development gap” is manifested not only in the difference between the average per capita income of the six older ASEAN member states and that of the newer four, but also in terms of human resources, institutional capacity, the state of the infrastructure and the level of competitiveness.
Against this backdrop, the ASEAN Heads of State/Government, at their Summit meeting in November 2000 in Singapore, adopted a special programme for narrowing the development gap, calling it the “Initiative for ASEAN Integration” or “IAI”. Following through on the Leaders’ decision, the ASEAN Foreign Ministers adopted at their annual meeting in July 2001, the Ha Noi Declaration on Narrowing the Development Gap for Closer ASEAN Integration. The declaration expressed the ASEAN members’ resolve to “promote, through concerted efforts, effective cooperation and mutual assistance to narrow the development gap among ASEAN members and between ASEAN and the rest of the world,” with infrastructure, human resource development, information and communications.
The ASEAN Leaders in their 2003 Declaration of the ASEAN Concord (Bali Concord II) stressed that the deepening and broadening of ASEAN integration shall be accompanied by technical and development cooperation to address the development divide and accelerate the economic integration of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Viet Nam (CLMV) through the road map for the integration of ASEAN to enable all member states to move forward in a unified manner and that the benefits of ASEAN integration are shared. In this regard, the Vientiane Action Programme 2004-2010, a medium-term development plan to realise ASEAN Vision 2020, highlighted the strategic importance of narrowing the development gap to realise the ASEAN Community and that the IAI be strengthened to address the needs of CLMV.
Progress in Narrowing of Development Gap
There has been significant progress since the launch of the IAI in 2000. CLMV achieved remarkable income and trade growth, particularly in the past decade (2006-2015). Average GDP growth rate of each of these countries was between 6.0%-8.7% compared with the region’s average of 5.2%. Within the same period, their merchandise trade increased between 2.5 and 5.8 times. CLMV are also playing an increasing role in ASEAN’s total merchandise trade and foreign direct investment (FDI). In 2015, CLMV’s total merchandise trade contributed 16.9% to ASEAN’s total trade, up from 7.9% in 2007. FDI into CLMV more than doubled from 2007 to 2015, amounting to US$17.4 billion, which constituted 14.6% of total FDI to ASEAN compared to 10.9% in 2007.
Despite this rapid growth, CLMV still have the lowest incomes among ASEAN Member States. Currently, three out of the four member states are least-developed countries (LDCs). During the same period, the scale and complexity of ASEAN commitments and agreements have grown substantially, as regional integration gathers pace. Thus, the commitment to equitable development and narrowing development gap is reiterated under the ASEAN Community Vision 2025.
IAI Work Plan III
The IAI Work Plan III (2016-2020) was adopted by Leaders at the 28th ASEAN Summit in September 2016 as an integral part of the ASEAN 2025: Forging Ahead Together to support the implementation of the three Community Blueprints. The Work Plan is designed to assist CLMV countries to meet ASEAN-wide targets and commitments towards realising the goals of the ASEAN Community. It consists of five strategic areas, namely food and agriculture, trade facilitation, MSMEs, education, and health and well-being. The actions are closely aligned with the ASEAN Community Blueprints 2025 and relevant ASEAN sectoral work plans. A copy of the IAI Work Plan III can be downloaded here. .
IAI Task Force
The IAI Task Force comprising of the ten Permanent Representatives to ASEAN provides policy guidance and directions in the development and implementation of the IAI Work Plan. The Chair of the IAI Task Force serves a term of one year and rotates according to alphabetical order among the CLMV countries. The IAI Task Force reports to the ASEAN Coordinating Council.
The IAI&NDG Division of the ASEAN Secretariat serves as secretariat to the IAI Task Force as well as assists in the monitoring and coordination of the IAI Work Plan’s implementation.
For more information on the Initiative for ASEAN Integration and its activities, please contact the IAI&NDG Division at email: IAI@asean.org.