Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN)
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN was established on 8 August 1967 in Bangkok by the five original Member Countries, namely, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Brunei Darussalam joined on 8 January 1984, Viet Nam on 28 July 1995, Lao PDR and Myanmar on 23 July 1997, and Cambodia on 30 April 1999.
As of 2015, the ASEAN region has a population of about 625 million, a total area of 4.5 million square kilometers, and a combined GDP of over US$2.6 trillion.
ASEAN ECONOMIC COMMUNITY
The ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint was signed by the ASEAN Leaders in 2007 which aims to establish ASEAN, by 2015, as a single market and production base, a highly competitive economic region, a region of equitable economic development, and a region fully integrated into the global economy.
The ASEAN Economic Community would also complement the other two Pillars of the larger ASEAN Community, namely the ASEAN Political Security Community and the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community.
ASEAN is engaged in numerous efforts under its four main areas of work that would form the basis of the ASEAN Economic Community, which includes as follows:
(i) Single Market and Production Base: Liberalisation of trade and investment under three main agreements, namely the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA), the ASEAN Framework Agreement on Services (AFAS), and the ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement (ACIA). Apart from liberalisation of trade and investment, ASEAN is also working on trade and investment facilitation, such as the ongoing work to develop an ASEAN Single Window and an ASEAN Trade Repository which would ease trade within the region.
(ii) Competitive Economic Region: Cooperation among Member States to enhance areas such as Competition Policy and Law, Consumer Protection, and Intellectual Property.
(iii) Equitable Economic Development: Narrowing of development gaps within and between ASEAN Member States through capacity building and technical assistance initiatives, such as the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI), and supporting the development of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the region.
(iv) Integration into the Global Economy: Recognizing that ASEAN is an export-oriented region, ASEAN would continue to engage with external partners in various free trade agreements, which includes the ongoing negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) involving ASEAN, Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea, and New Zealand.
ASEAN BEYOND 2015
The work towards realizing the ASEAN Economic Community is an ongoing process and would not end after 2015. As such, efforts are already underway to set the direction for enhanced economic cooperation among the ASEAN Member States once it completes its work under the existing ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint by the end of this year.
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