Today, the region of ASEAN or Association of Southeast Asian Nations is deemed comparatively to be the most peaceful and stable region of Asia. With the advancement of Asean economic community from Asean summit, the region can potentially be the world's fourth largest economy by 2050 based on the current trends of economic growth.
Diversity in Asia
Despite the fast emerging economies in Asia, the region is vastly diverse in terms of geo-political, cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. Many Asians still live under poverty. In other parts of Asia, there is a threat of nuclear weapons, in West Asia in Israel and possibly in Iran, in Central Asia in Pakistan, in South Asia, in India, and in East Asia in China and in North Korea.
Asean summit towards greater cooperation
ASEAN is progressing towards greater cooperation within the region. Every two years, ASEAN leaders meet at the Asean summit in relation to economic and cultural development. On 31 December 2015, the Asean economic community was established based on the Asean free trade area to promote single market and production base, free flow of goods and services, investments, capital and skills. This initiative was reaffirmed by Nay Pyi Taw Declaration from 24th Asean summit on 11 May 2014. This encourages intra-regional trade within ASEAN. Economy of Thailand along with other state members is greatly improved.
Recent developments in ASEAN and initiatives by leaders at Asean summit elevated its position to be promising economies.
- If ASEAN were one economy, it would be seventh largest in the world with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of $2.4 trillion in 2013. It could be fourth largest by 2050 if growth trends continue. Source: ASEAN Integration and the Private Sector, speech by ADB Vice-President Stephen Groff, 23 June 2014 in Berlin, Federal Republic of Germany.
- ASEAN's potential consumer market is larger than the European Union or North America with a population of over 600 million people. It has the world's third largest labor force that is relatively young next to the China and India.
- Originally established in 1967 principally for political and security purposes, currently ASEAN is a successful model for regionalism, accepted internationally.
- On its 40th anniversary in 2007, ASEAN adopted the ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint during Asean summit, which changed the completion target to 2015 from 2020.
- Agreed at Asean summit, the ASEAN Economic Community is defined by four pillars: (i) creating a single market and production base, (ii) increasing competitiveness, (iii) promoting equitable economic development, and (iv) further integrating ASEAN with the global economy.
- In November 2007 during the Asean summit, ASEAN leaders also passed the Initiative for ASEAN Integration Strategic Framework and Work Plan (2009-15), aiming to bridge the "development divide" between the economically more advanced members - Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, known as the ASEAN-6, and the four newer ones.
Challenges for ASEAN and leaders at Asean summit
ASEAN countries have come far from its history of conflicts and violence. However, today there are still obstacles left for countries to tackle, be it global financial crisis, political instability and transition such as Thailand politics, ethnic clashes in Myanmar, rampant corruption or severe pollution such as haze from Indonesia. Leaders at Asean summit also have not provided a clear direction for South China Sea conflicts with China.
The road to future is definitely not rosy for leaders at Asean summit. However, the hope is high with concerted efforts from every member state. With international recognition and regional cooperation, ASEAN is on track to be Asia's oasis of stability.