The launch of the ASEAN Community in 2015 at the 27th ASEAN Summit represents a major milestone in ASEAN’s regional integration agenda. ASEAN also adopted the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 “Forging Ahead Together” and the 2025 Blueprints for the ASEAN Political Security Community (APSC), the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) and the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) at this Summit. These documents chart the direction for ASEAN over the next 10 years, focusing on strengthening ASEAN unity and consolidating and deepening regional integration, towards a politically cohesive, economically integrated, socially responsible, and a truly rules-based, people-oriented and people-centred ASEAN Community.
Under the AEC Blueprint 2025, ASEAN remains committed to intensifying its economic cooperation with the five goals of creating:
- a deeply integrated and highly cohesive regional economy;
- a competitive, innovative and dynamic community that sustains high economic growth and robust productivity;
- enhanced connectivity and sectoral cooperation;
- a more resilient and inclusive community that engenders equitable development and inclusive growth; and
- a global ASEAN that fosters a more systematic and coherent approach in external economic relations.
In this context, the competition section under the AEC Blueprint 2025 highlights the need for effective competition regimes, with strengthened capacities, a more competition-aware region and putting in place regional arrangements on competition. Strong and enforceable competition laws are expected to support the formation of a more competitive and innovative region by providing a level playing field for all enterprises, especially the micro, small and medium enterprises.
Flowing from the strategic measures on competition in the AEC Blueprint 2025, these are further expanded through a set of five strategic goals and key action lines under the ASEAN Competition Action Plan (ACAP) 2016-2025. The five strategic goals under the ACAP 2025 correspond to the strategic measures in the AEC Blueprint 2025. These are: effective competition regimes are established in all AMS, capacities of competition-related agencies are enhanced, regional cooperation arrangements on CPL are established, a competition-aware region is fostered and to move towards greater convergence.
Strategic Goal 1 of the ACAP 2025 builds on the commitment of ASEAN to have competition laws in all Member States. It also aims to strengthen the legislative framework to meet changing market conditions, with self-assessments and reviews of legislation. Currently, nine AMS already have competition laws in place.
Strategic Goal 2 focuses on building the competencies of competition agencies to effectively enforce the law, including the setting up competition centers. Given the number of new competition agencies, the initiatives under this strategic goal are oriented towards addressing capacity building gaps with a view towards improving competencies of competition agencies, especially the younger agencies, and related actors (including, among others, judges, lawyers, economists).
Strategic Goal 3 seeks to advance the regional cooperation agenda on CPL to strengthen cooperation amongst AMS. It is anticipated that given the increasingly global and regional footprint of enterprises, there could be more competition issues or cases that are cross-border or regional in nature, that may merit greater cooperation among AMS, such as pre-notifications, exchange of non-confidential information and developing enforcers’ networks.
Competition laws affect a large number of stakeholders. Under Strategic Goal 4, increasing the understanding of the stakeholders on the benefits of CPL and ensuring better business compliance is an important area of focus for ASEAN. ASEAN also hopes to deliver on building a good competition culture, including enhancing media’s understanding of competition issues.
As ASEAN integrate and as companies operate on a more global and regional platform, greater harmonisation of competition policies may be seen to give more effect to these policies, which are already being shaped by ASEAN’s FTAs. One of the instruments for this is the adoption of a set of Agreed Principles on CPL and developing strategies for convergence under Strategic Goal 5.
ASEAN hopes to implement the ACAP 2025 with cooperation from all stakeholders, academia, business and consumer associations. Finding the right resources and working with other ASEAN sectoral bodies and dialogue partners are also important. With competition policy considerations being at the core of ASEAN’s economic integration, the implementation of the ACAP 2025 remains a top priority.
ASEAN established the ASEAN Experts Group on Competition (AEGC) in 2007, with nine ASEAN Member States having put in place competition laws by 2015. Through the work of the AEGC, ASEAN has developed the ASEAN Regional Guidelines on Competition Policy and Law which outlined the framework for competition laws. In seeking to foster a culture of competition, a number of advocacy tools were developed such as the ASEAN Handbook on Competition, the ASEAN Competition Website, the ASEAN Advocacy Toolkit and the convening of annual ASEAN competition conferences.