INTRODUCTION

 

1.ASEAN is energetic and healthy. We have been challenged by unexpected difficulties, but we have rallied as a group and managed the problems. We do not have unanimity on everything. Yet, we are united by our diversity and the bond of common travelers on an arduous journey. The keen interest of others in ASEAN has cheered us and motivated us to stay together as we move forward.

 

ECONOMIC ISSUES

 

2.ASEAN economic integration continues to consolidate. This trend has been established and facilitated by ASEAN economic cooperation and integration schemes, such as the ASEAN Free Trade Area, the ASEAN Investment Area, and the ASEAN Framework Agreement on Services.

 

3.ASEAN should continue to enhance the role of the private sector in the regional production network to facilitate outsourcing among ASEAN Member Countries. A situation is emerging where several countries are contributing at different stages of production of goods and services, which should eventually be labeled as “Made in ASEAN”.  

 

4.However, regional and global economic competition is also intensifying. Thus, ASEAN should not be complacent. There are certain technical issues that need to be addressed if ASEAN is to maintain the momentum for further economic integration. ASEAN needs to pursue the necessary reform in an expeditious manner. Efforts must continue in building regional networks of transportation, communications, and energy infrastructure.

 

5.ASEAN needs to forge consensus in identifying solutions that address the concerns of its Member Countries consistent with the long-term strategic goal of building economic competitiveness. Bridging the development gap within and among ASEAN Member Countries should remain a priority in the ASEAN economic agenda.

 

6.ASEAN’s economic competitiveness and credibility are at stake. Elements of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) as annexed to the Bali Concord II must be carried out in a timely fashion. Moving forward, ASEAN needs to build a consensus on the content of the AEC beyond integrating the eleven priority sectors.

 

POLITICAL ISSUES

 

7.ASEAN’s commitment to the maintenance of peace and stability in Southeast Asia and in the broader Asia Pacific region is imperative. Nothing productive could be achieved without it. The goal of establishing the ASEAN Security Community should contribute to this process.

 

8. ASEAN should remain relevant not only to itself, but also to its external partners. It needs a long-term strategy in developing balance relations among China, Japan and the Republic of Korea. The ASEAN Plus Three process has laid the foundation for East Asian cooperation. To further engage the Plus Three and to give them a greater sense of stakeholdership, an East Asia Summit might be considered at an appropriate time.

 

9.China is building its relations with ASEAN with a longer term outlook. ASEAN should respond strategically. ASEAN should keep pace with China’s economic competitiveness and manage the significant increase in activities between ASEAN and China.

 

10.ASEAN should recognize the significant political and economic role of India, Australia and New Zealand in the region. The combined GDP of ASEAN, India, Australia and New Zealand is very substantial and its vast potential must be tapped to enhance ASEAN’s economic competitiveness.

 

11.Beyond the Asia Pacific, ASEAN should maintain its outward orientation to preserve its relations with its traditional trading partners and sources of investment and tourism. ASEAN should continue to play host, through the ASEAN Regional Forum, in managing major power relations in our part of the world. Bilateral free trade arrangements with the United States and the European Union should remain a long-term goal for ASEAN Member Countries.

 

SOCIO-CULTURAL ISSUES

 

12.The concept of establishing an ASEAN Community is comprehensive and inclusive. It includes promoting social and cultural relations among the peoples of Southeast Asia towards building shared identity, greater understanding and solidarity within the framework of the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community.

 

13.The increasing people-to-people interaction, including greater mobility of labour, professionals, artists, tourists and students could result in a greater alignment of popular thinking and ideas. This could mean change in their cultural and social outlook. As ASEAN Member Countries move towards building a community, domestic issues would progressively become common concerns. At the same time, we must begin to accept ASEAN’s common interests as a weighty consideration in our respective national policy-making deliberations.

                               

14.“Thinking ASEAN” and “acting ASEAN” help to promote the economic integration process. There will be greater consciousness and strengthening of ASEAN beyond the elite circles. Adopting a regional outlook will be helpful to the political and economic development in ASEAN Member Countries.

 

15.Promoting economic competitiveness creates certain stresses within our societies and among our countries. As ASEAN becomes more integrated, it is not only the opportunities that are multiplied, but also the instability and dislocations associated with this process. ASEAN must do what it can to mitigate the socio-economic impact of the polarization effect between the competitive and less than competitive economies. We need to establish effective and sustainable social safety nets for this purpose.

 

INSTITUTIONAL ISSUES

 

16.Any organisation’s mechanisms and processes must serve the organisation and not the other way around. In this regard, ASEAN practices must facilitate and not thwart the fast changing developments in regional collaboration and its evolving external environment without compromising the collective interests of the Member Countries. An ASEAN institutional framework review is in the agenda of the AMM.

 

17.ASEAN’s consensual and consultative decision-making is pivotal to ASEAN’s resilience. It ensures broad support for ASEAN decisions. This should be preserved. At the same time, it should not be an excuse for inaction if not institutional paralysis. To remain responsive and relevant, ASEAN should be innovative in its decision-making processes.

 

18.ASEAN’s structures have expanded to cover a wide-ranging agenda that has evolved over the years. There are now more than 20 ministerial-level bodies in ASEAN and the number will increase as ASEAN is now considering convening ministerial meetings on defense, forestry and women affairs.

 

19.The expansion of ASEAN structures and activities has resulted in stresses in national and regional coordination, resource mobilization, and logistical and secretariat support. With a view to promoting their mutually-reinforcing efforts, effective coordination is

 

20.Malaysia, in its paper on ASEAN’s institutional review, has described ASEAN as a policy regime rather than a legal regime. ASEAN needs to address this important issue with a view to ensuring that ASEAN decisions are carried out predictably as committed. ASEAN should study the pros and cons of transforming itself into a legal entity founded on a constitutional framework. This process need not start from scratch. ASEAN’s goals, principles, structures, and instruments have been laid down in various legally binding agreements, such as the TAC, SEANWFZ, AFTA and others. ASEAN needs only to reaffirm them in a consolidated form. ASEAN should enhance its juridical status, promote rules-based decision-making and ensure greater predictability.

 

CONCLUSION

 

21.          Global and regional trends are steering towards greater political, economic and social convergence across national borders. ASEAN should gain from this development by maximizing the opportunities it offers and, at the same time, building ASEAN’s capacity to minimize the perils. The pace of ASEAN community building today is faster than at any other time in the history of ASEAN. ASEAN has demonstrated the will to survive and succeed. There is every reason to be optimistic about the future of ASEAN.  

 

 

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