January 30, 2007
Written by C.N.
Most people have probably heard of the European Union (EU) or the North American Free Trade Zone (NAFTZ), but I’d guess that most have not heard of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Up to now, it’s a loose confederation of countries in Southeast Asia that has done little more than talk and make pledges of cooperation. At their latest meeting however, ASEAN countries seem poised to take their group to the next level and to more closely emulate the EU and NAFTZ:
Facing economic pressure from heavyweights China and India, and the twin shadows of terrorism and poverty, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations adopted an ambitious agenda it hopes can transform the region. Following a day of talks at a summit that was postponed last month amid fears of a terror attack, it set a goal of 2015 for a free-trade zone that would cover almost 570 million people, more than the population of Europe. . . .
Perhaps the biggest change is a plan to revamp how this disparate group of nations — run by everything from sultans to old-school communist ideologues — will handle its internal diplomacy. The group signed a commitment to create ASEAN’s first-ever charter, aimed at turning it into a European Union-style entity with binding rules and regulations. . . . ASEAN [includes] Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Although there’s still debate how a closer union of countries is good or bad on certain issues, in general, I see this as a positive step for these countries. Closer cooperation will allow them to begin cultivating a more united front, which will hopefully mean a more powerful collective voice in world affairs, rather than being singular, isolated states in the international community. We’ll have to see what the details of such a union look like, but I like what I hear so far.
The question becomes, how will the U.S. like such an arrangement? Will they see a closer and more powerful ASEAN as a useful counterbalance to the power of China, Indian, Japan, and South Korea, or will they see it as another emerging economic and political threat to their waning international hegemony? That question too remains to be seen.
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "ASEAN Nations Planning Closer Ties" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2007/01/asean-nations-planning-closer-ties/> ().
Short URL: http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/?p=357