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American Shipper

Southeast Asian countries press for economic integration

ASEAN member countries will officially launch a long-term plan this week to achieve regional economic integration within the next 10 years.

   Ten Southeast Asian countries will officially launch a long-term plan this week to achieve regional economic integration within the next 10 years in an effort to better compete with trading powerhouses China, Japan and South Korea.
   The countries — Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam — are part of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The association was formed in 1967 in an effort to help those countries in the region that suffered from repeated civil unrest and cross-border warfare in the decades following World War II.
   The AEC Blueprint 2025 was approved by the ASEAN members at their summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Nov. 21. The member countries said at the time that they are “committed to intensify our economic cooperation to create a deeply integrated and highly cohesive regional economy as well as a competitive, innovative and dynamic community that sustains high economic growth and robust productivity while enhancing connectivity and sectoral cooperation.”
   The AEC Blueprint 2025 also calls for numerous social, labor, environmental, and political integration goals.
   According to the ASEAN, the integrated market would represent $2.6 trillion and more than 622 million people. In 2014, the so-called ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) was collectively the third largest economy in Asia and seventh largest in the world.
   Intra-ASEAN trade reached $608.3 billion in 2014 or 24.1 percent of the total trade for  the region, making ASEAN the region’s largest market by partner. At $24.4 billion, intra-ASEAN investment accounted for 17.9 percent of the total foreign direct investment in the region.
   “We expect that ASEAN’s trade and investment in 2015 will maintain its momentum as in the past years. The combined GDP of the region reached $2.57 trillion in 2014, and average GDP per capita $4,135, a near doubling of the 2007 figures,” ASEAN said at the Nov. 21 summit.
   While the AEC has the potential to eclipse the recently approved Trans-Pacific Partnership, which includes the United States, it’s expected by many analysts to be more difficult to implement. Some ASEAN member countries continue to clash over various import tariffs. The Wall Street Journal noted in a recent article that sugar producers in Indonesia and the Philippines, for example, have slashed their import tariffs for this commodity while accusing Thailand of subsidizing its sugar industry.