On 31 December 2015, a new economic community will be born. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will officially found the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), with the 10 member states (comprised of more than 600 million people) working towards the common goal of economic integration, a single market, and the free flow of services, investment, labour, and capital. Sound familiar?

It’s a grand plan on paper, but the reality is that progress has been slow. In 2010, intra-regional trade accounted for just 25% of ASEAN’s total trade, compared to nearly 70% for the EU. Unlike the EU, ASEAN advocates a consensus-based approach and stresses non-interference in the internal affairs of fellow member states. This is the “ASEAN way”, but it is also likely to cause serious implementation issues for the nascent economic community.

Are there lessons that ASEAN can draw from Europe’s experience with building a single market? To get a response, we spoke to Anita Prakash, Director General of Policy Relations at the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA). What would she say?

Are there lessons Asia can learn from the European Union? Will the “ASEAN way” of consensus-based decision-making and non-interference be enough to establish a single market in Southeast Asia? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Asian Secretariat

16 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Ivan Burrows


    Only one lesson to learn, Don’t let federalist fanatics try and turn it into a political union.

    • avatar

      Now we cannot separate politics from economy. Political economy is a growing important discipline in international relations. Without political integration, no economic integration is possible. Without regional integration, small EU states cannot survive the turbulence of the global political economic. Do not blame EU for ones failure but think more why energy and resources of Europe have been wasting on political confrontation within the nation and all over the world.

  2. avatar
    Enric Mestres Girbal

    I think the best lesson they can learn is: If you want to survive, NEVER change into a political comunity. The change of the ECM into the EU has been the ruin of Europe.

    • avatar

      Without the protection of EU, some small European states cannot overcome the globalization force such as the 2008 financial crisis.

  3. avatar
    Joey Stack

    They must learn never to form a political union. Asia, even more than europe, is such a political hotbed, with each country holding differing beliefs, that a single political union would ruin them even worse than it has ruined Europe.

  4. avatar
    EU reform- proactive

    …….this lady talks sense! What can/should the EU/EC learn from ASEAN?

    Re-cycle the EU28 , revive & rebuild the “Council of Europe 47” as a ~800 mio strong Economic Union ONLY! (“COEEU”) ~2 decades of political work wasted!

    To be deducted from all EU politicians’ salaries & pensions- so sorry guys!

  5. avatar
    Otto Barten

    “We are not aspiring for a common currency” sounds like a good start.. Still, curious what their stance to China is. If this develops into a common adversary, integration may go a lot easier..

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      @Evangelos Koumentakos
      A sensible POV given that Greece is now a German vassal state.

  6. avatar
    George Yiannitsiotis

    1. Do not open markets without a wealth redistribution mechanism
    2. Do not forge a monetary union without a mechanism against social dumping
    3. Do not abolish veto power (especially the small, weak countries)
    4. Do not forge a political union without guarantees for national prosperity, democracy and human rights (best pattern to safeguard them: the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights)

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      @George Yiannitsioti
      1…I don’t mind helping poor EU nations so long as they acknowledge that they accept their charitable status.
      2…True, there are far too many EU plebians in the UK for instance.
      3…TRUE for all the EU CORE FOUR – Germany, UK, Frabce & Italy.
      4…NO – poor, crappy EU countries MUST learn to stand on their own 2 feet.

  7. avatar
    Jokera Jokerov

    Do not do it the “European way”! Do it like Norway, like Switzerland, like Anyone else, but the rotten EU.

  8. avatar

    What ASEAN can learn from EU is probably from its pattern of GDP performance and integration since the 1970s. Each time, EU has been able to recover from economic recession by deepening the integration process, which is, the collective security philosophy of the founding fathers has been working successfully. One thing very obvious is that the EU gdp growth pattern coincides with that of the US. This can mainly be explained by the close cross-Atlantic political and economic integration over the last century. At the same time, the US, Japan and EU are competitors. Without forming a single market, individual member states would not be able to compete in the global market. While ASEAN are all late-developed and newly emerged economies at their early age of nation-building. The social and political economy are rather unstable, and vulnerable to external influence and a sense of community is very weak. Besides, each newly emerged states of ASEAN are still searching for its own path of development. It is difficult to jump into the integration process at the meantime. Since the Open Door policy of China, ASEAN gdp growth appeared to be following similar pattern of China, which might also be explained by its proximity with the world’s second largest economy and a single largest market. As long as individual states can have a good share of economic gain from China, formation of a single market might not be of immediate concern.

  9. avatar

    In my opinion, it should be the EU that has to learn from ASEAN countries, which have been sustained a few decades of economic growth and development for they have not followed the US to fight unnecessary wars all over the world. EU has to review its relationship with NATO, whether EU has to waste money on fighting war with the US, when the manufacturing of cars and production of steel are threatening the US national security. As the US cannot fight any war without EU support, if EU declines to use war to solve conflict, refuses to fight unnecessary war with the US, the world should be more peaceful. More money can be invested for development of the region, thus benefit EU people. On the following link:
    former President Jimmy Carter explained why China is getting ahead of the US. According to Carter, China has not wasted a penny on war but used money earned to build lots of infrastructure and education of the people… EU leaders might also need to learn humbly from this Former US President, who is also the Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.

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