What to expect from the upcoming 23rd ASEAN Summit in Brunei

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Arno Maierbrugger
By Arno Maierbrugger

As Brunei’s chairmanship of ASEAN slowly turns to an end, the country is hosting the 23rd ASEAN summit on October 9-10, the next in a row of talks and reasoning about the roadmap of the 10-member bloc that is supposed to enter the next stage of development with the launch of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) possibly by end-2015.

So far, the programme of the summit is quite vague. It says that ASEAN members will come “to discuss a wide range of political, security and economic topics with the aim of promoting stability and economic prosperity in the region”.

While there are no expectations that there will be announcements on major milestones of the AEC, the summit will see the presentation of the Mid-Term Review of the Implementation of the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Blueprint adopted by ASEAN Leaders in 2009. Among the issues highlighted by this report are those involving youth, women, children and other vulnerable groups.

The summit will also see the adoption of the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women and Elimination of Violence against Children, both indeed important agreements for the association’s members.

However, there are limited expectations that the summit will move forward with talks on security issues in the South China Sea as it is uncertain whether the 10-member ASEAN bloc would be able to complete the respective code of conduct at this summit, considered an important agreement that would settle regional issues in the resource-rich maritime area.

Last but not least, the AEC will be once more an issue on which opinions broadly differ not only among officials of all sorts, but also businesses and the public. ASEAN’s work on intra-regional tariff reduction, liberalisation of trade in services, liberalisation of investment and streamlining of customs administration and procedures has been acknowledged, but it seems that really fundamental discussions and negotiations are yet to be held.

A number of surveys state that many businesses, especially small and medium enterprises, are poorly prepared for the AEC, and others came to the conclusion that the vision of a single market and production base in a highly competitive economic region with equitable economic development and fully integrated into the global economy will remain a vision even after 2015.

While the AEC to a certain extent represents the culmination of ASEAN’s aspirations toward regional integration, there is still much to be done in terms of public enlightenment on the goals of the AEC, and the ASEAN members should do more to broadcast the AEC benchmarks that it has already met and the ones that are still unmet to reduce the amount of confusion within the region on what will really happen by end-2015.

It remains to be seen whether the upcoming summit will be capable of doing so. If not, it would certainly be another missed opportunity.

Do you think the timeline for the AEC (launch by end-2015) is realistic? Do you think the ASEAN summits are functional in reaching set goals? Let us know through Twitter: @insideinvestor

This comment is part of Inside Investor’s weekly column series in Brunei’s leading newspaper Brunei Times and is published every Monday.

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Reading Time: 3 minutes

By Arno Maierbrugger

As Brunei’s chairmanship of ASEAN slowly turns to an end, the country is hosting the 23rd ASEAN summit on October 9-10, the next in a row of talks and reasoning about the roadmap of the 10-member bloc that is supposed to enter the next stage of development with the launch of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) possibly by end-2015.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Arno Maierbrugger
By Arno Maierbrugger

As Brunei’s chairmanship of ASEAN slowly turns to an end, the country is hosting the 23rd ASEAN summit on October 9-10, the next in a row of talks and reasoning about the roadmap of the 10-member bloc that is supposed to enter the next stage of development with the launch of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) possibly by end-2015.

So far, the programme of the summit is quite vague. It says that ASEAN members will come “to discuss a wide range of political, security and economic topics with the aim of promoting stability and economic prosperity in the region”.

While there are no expectations that there will be announcements on major milestones of the AEC, the summit will see the presentation of the Mid-Term Review of the Implementation of the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Blueprint adopted by ASEAN Leaders in 2009. Among the issues highlighted by this report are those involving youth, women, children and other vulnerable groups.

The summit will also see the adoption of the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women and Elimination of Violence against Children, both indeed important agreements for the association’s members.

However, there are limited expectations that the summit will move forward with talks on security issues in the South China Sea as it is uncertain whether the 10-member ASEAN bloc would be able to complete the respective code of conduct at this summit, considered an important agreement that would settle regional issues in the resource-rich maritime area.

Last but not least, the AEC will be once more an issue on which opinions broadly differ not only among officials of all sorts, but also businesses and the public. ASEAN’s work on intra-regional tariff reduction, liberalisation of trade in services, liberalisation of investment and streamlining of customs administration and procedures has been acknowledged, but it seems that really fundamental discussions and negotiations are yet to be held.

A number of surveys state that many businesses, especially small and medium enterprises, are poorly prepared for the AEC, and others came to the conclusion that the vision of a single market and production base in a highly competitive economic region with equitable economic development and fully integrated into the global economy will remain a vision even after 2015.

While the AEC to a certain extent represents the culmination of ASEAN’s aspirations toward regional integration, there is still much to be done in terms of public enlightenment on the goals of the AEC, and the ASEAN members should do more to broadcast the AEC benchmarks that it has already met and the ones that are still unmet to reduce the amount of confusion within the region on what will really happen by end-2015.

It remains to be seen whether the upcoming summit will be capable of doing so. If not, it would certainly be another missed opportunity.

Do you think the timeline for the AEC (launch by end-2015) is realistic? Do you think the ASEAN summits are functional in reaching set goals? Let us know through Twitter: @insideinvestor

This comment is part of Inside Investor’s weekly column series in Brunei’s leading newspaper Brunei Times and is published every Monday.

brunei_times_logo

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