News / Asia

Economic Integration Remains Elusive for ASEAN

General view of the meeting room at the 23rd ASEAN Summit in Bandar Seri Begawan, Oct. 9, 2013.
General view of the meeting room at the 23rd ASEAN Summit in Bandar Seri Begawan, Oct. 9, 2013.
The leaders of Southeast Asian nations will meet Wednesday and Thursday to assess progress on an ambitious goal of realizing the ASEAN Economic Community by 2015.  The quest for a regional economic partnership is one that even ASEAN's Secretariat is acknowledging remains a challenge, especially amid an uncertain global environment. 
 
The summit's host, the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, opened the meeting by noting there has been “some progress” towards ASEAN's goal of regional integration of ten economies (Burma, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam) in two years’ time.
  
“But overall, we must continue to show greater political will in doing all we can to realize our community goals by 2015,” said the Sultan.
  
Another big issue for ASEAN is a maritime code of conduct. It focuses on the territorial dispute involving China and several other member nations regarding navigation of the South China Sea.
 
The previous ASEAN Summit came close to what analysts termed a diplomatic implosion when the maritime issue prevented the group, for the first time, from issuing a joint communiqué.
 
This week, China's foreign ministry spokesperson, Hua Chunying, made it clear while speaking to reporters in Beijing on Tuesday that discussions about the financial crisis faced by Southeast Asia, not the territorial disputes, should be the priority at this year's ASEAN summit.
 
Hua said “China should make joint efforts to maintain peace and stability of the South China Sea without adopting any action that may complicate the situation in the region.”
 
The ASEAN meeting will be followed on Thursday by the East Asia Summit. Two high profile leaders will not be attending: U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
 
In a column published Wednesday in the Brunei Times, former U.S. Ambassador to the Asia Development Bank, Curtis Chin, contends that Obama's absence is contributing to the United States “losing face in Asia” at the expense of China. Chin writes this could lead to a loss of American credibility, power, prestige and influence at a time when Washington is touting a diplomatic “pivot” to Asia.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

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by: JKF from: Great North
October 09, 2013 7:46 AM
It is very sad that the US President was unable to attend this very important summit; such failure to participate will just continue to errode the influence of the US/West. The few extremists that are holding the US executive and the administration hostage to their vey narrow ideology, do not care that they are harming the US and its allies through their dastardly actions; essentially their negative actions are tantamount to a coup against the administration and against the US people to which they are denying the basic services; in addition their actions are having negative impacts on US allies/trading partners. This denial of services, like help to the families of fallen soldiers is a real new low in morality, or the closing of children's health clinics because non payment of delivered services to children of low income families, or failure to issue passports to people that are trying to expand the US economy, etc. Clearly these extremists are hurting everyone, and now they are ready to have a negative impact on the global economy. Like it or not, these type of childlish antics, are starting to look like these people either do not have the intellectual capacity to understand the harm they are causing, or just they are actually intentionally out to derail the very weak gains of the US and of the global economies; their antics may cause another recession. When are the US voters going to wake up and proceed with a recall, were they can, of these extremists, that are causing so much harm to further their extremist agendas?

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