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ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) 2015

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has been the


representative of regional economic cooperation and integration among
developing countries. As part of the structural changes of the world
economy, ASEAN has implemented intra-regional economic cooperation
since 1976. The new goal is the establishment of the ASEAN Community
which consisted of three pillars; ASEAN Political-Security Community,
ASEAN Economic Community, and ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community. Since
ASEAN has also been an important axis of regional economic cooperation
and free trade agreements (FTA) in Asia and Pacifics. A big step toward
realization of ASEAN Community is the Southeast Asia regional economic
integration into ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) within 2015.
The ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) is one of the three ASEAN
Community Councils. It's goal is to seek regional economic integration by
2015. The areas of cooperation include

human resources development and capacity building

recognition of professional qualifications

consultation on economic and financial polices

trade financing

infrastructure and communications connectivity

electronic transactions through e-ASEAN

industrial integration to promote regional sourcing

enhancing private sector involvement for the building of AEC


In short, the AEC will transform ASEAN into a region with free movement
of goods, services, investment, skilled labor, and freer flow of capital.

From ASEAN to AEC


A key characteristic of the AEC is a single market and production
base. Progress was made in this area with the signing of three key
agreements: a) the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement, b) the Protocol to
Implement the 7th Package of Services Commitments, and c) the ASEAN
Comprehensive Investment Agreement, at the 14th ASEAN Summit in
Thailand, 2009. These agreements provide a streamlined, consolidated,
predictable and transparent set of rules to achieve the goal of a single
market and production base by 2015.

Advantages of the AEC


It will open more regional cooperation and will improve the scale
efficiencies, dynamism and competitiveness of ASEAN members. AEC
will enable easier movement of goods, services, investment, capital

and people. Ultimately, it will offer new ways of coordinating supply


chains, or access to new markets for established products.
All ASEAN countries are more important to foreign investors if they are
considered as one node in a larger regional market of nearly 600
million people - a single market.
The United States International Trade Commission's (USITC) ASEAN:
Regional Trends in Economic Integration, Export Competitiveness, and
Inbound Investment for Selected Industries Report noted that the AEC
is coming at a time when it is recognized that investment in emerging
markets is more desirable than in the US and Europe.
SMEs accounted for 96% of enterprises and between 50-85% of domestic
employment across ASEAN. Integrating these SMEs and supporting
them in the initial period will be a challenge throughout ASEAN but
particularly in the lesser developed ASEAN countries.
Tourism opportunity. Asians travels more in the region and there are more
travelers from other countries that have begun to reach out to Asia as
new visitors. The trends were evident at the recent Hub City Forum,
held by the Pacific Asia Tourism Association (Pata), where more than
100 travel industry executives discussed the tourism potential,
government's spending to upgrade facilities both for leisure attractions
like museums; and also facilities such as convention centers, reported
the newspaper.
Internationalization of health care under the AEC. Health care is one of
the sectors to be internationalized.

Current Situation
The AEC development has been criticized for being "too slow" and
some observers have said that the issues that have been delayed were
those of importance and could make or break the success of the
integration.
Some specialists also commented about the lack of
leadership on this issue - the role of ASEAN chairmanship is a rotating
position and a series of officials from the poorer, less developed ASEAN
countries will be the chair of ASEAN for the next few years which means
that leadership will be inexperienced and possibly be less interested in
pushing ahead quickly with integration on all fronts.

Challenges for AEC


These are vast and ambitious pursuits, and 2015 is less than three
years away. Businesses need to have an international mindset, which
gives them the appetite and ability to make cross-border investments and
acquisitions. Momentum has been established, as seen from many
investments and merger and acquisition activity that has occurred in the
region.
In Thailand, Siam Cement, one of Thailand's largest

conglomerates, is gearing up to spend 75% of its $5-billion investment


budget for 2012-16 to acquire assets, many in ASEAN countries, according
to the Bangkok Post , and there are other large companies such as CP or
BGH that are doing the same. Indonesia's AirAsia, Asia's largest budget
airline, is opening a regional office in Jakarta to engage with the ASEAN
Secretariat there and work toward a single ASEAN sky and aviation
authority, reported the Jarkata Post. In late 2011, a group of business
luminaries, including the CEOs of CIMB Bank , AirAsia, Bangkok Bank and
Ayala Group launched the Asean Business Club, a private-sector initiative
to engage in ASEAN's community building efforts .