PUTRAJAYA: The ASEAN Community comes officially into being tomorrow, marking a milestone in the 10-member bloc’s history, deepening integration of the region for the prosperity and wellbeing of all.
The idea of a three-pillared community – the Political-Security Community, the Economic Community and the Socio-Cultural Community – was mooted in 2003 with prospects of huge opportunities for everyone living and working in the
Speaking of the giant step the regional grouping formed in 1967 is taking, Foreign Ministry ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community deputy director-general Ambassador Jojie Samuel said: “ASEAN ushers in 2016 as a community, bringing to fruition an integration process that creates new opportunities for its 650 million people to make use of the ASEAN Community’s outward-looking character and economic robustness.”
The journey to the ASEAN Community started in Bali, Indonesia, in October 2003 when members endorsed the Declaration of ASEAN Concord II, also known as the Bali Concord II.
It was then that ASEAN envisioned an ASEAN Economic Community by 2015 to create a single market and distribution base, a highly competitive economic region with equitable economic development and a region fully integrated into
the global economy.
As Samuel noted, ASEAN Community-building was an ongoing process which saw member states undertaking initiatives under the three ASEAN Community blueprints for deepening and widening integration.
“ASEAN leaders have also adopted the ASEAN Community Vision 2025, which charts the regional grouping’s continued integration and consolidation, further integration and stronger cohesiveness over the next ten years,” he said.
At the opening of the 27th ASEAN Summit and Related Summits in Kuala Lumpur on Nov 21, Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said of the birth of the ASEAN Community: “It is a day we have all been waiting for. It is a day
that we – ASEAN – can be proud of.”
Echoing the sentiment, Universiti Utara Malaysia’s Dr Muhammad Fuad Othman said the establishment of the ASEAN Community was an inspiration for the peoples of the region to come closer for peace and security and prosperity.
“The ASEAN Community will steer the 10 member countries to move forward gracefully, bonded together in partnership and with one greater voice in the international world, creating ASEAN as a favourable investment region. The ASEAN Economic Community is taking shape with the free movement of goods, services, capital and skilled labour, with a view to improving the lives of ASEAN citizens,” he said.
ASEAN countries have a combined gross domestic product of US$2.6 trillion as of 2014, and a GDP growth rate of 4.6 per cent.
Malaysian Ambassador to Belgium Datuk Nafisah Mohamed said the forging of the ASEAN Community was in the interest of the reigon and the wider world for a peace, stability and development.
“This is the ASEAN way to take stock of its achievements and identify the way forward in realising the ASEAN Community as envisioned by ASEAN’s founding fathers.
“The prospect for more growth and development in ASEAN is promising as momentum is building towards the conclusion of bilateral and regional trade agreements with ASEAN and its dialogue partners,” she said in an email response to Bernama.
According to the ASEAN secretariat website, it is estimated that by 2030, ASEAN will become the fourth largest economy in the world after the ASEAN Economic Community is launched by 2020.
ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Laos will chair the regional grouping from Jan 1. – BERNAMA