Getting the AEC train back on track

A recent report by the CIMB Asean Research Institute published on 20 June, titled “The Asean Economic Community: The Status of Implementation”, sheds light on a pressing problem the Asean is facing: The implementation of the Asean Economic Community, or AEC, is way behind schedule and, according to the report&’s findings, unlikely to come into effect as scheduled at the end of 2015 due to “unsettled problems” among member states.
It appears that there is a mismatch between political ambition and political will among several member states, the report says, that fears have already been voiced by several economists. The report even showed that trade between Asean member states was down instead of going up over the past years, indicating there is a gap between the highly ambitious integration targets and the reality.
At the latest Asean summits in Brunei it is has been reiterated that the bloc had implemented 77.5 per cent of AEC measures, up from 74.5 per cent in October 2012.
However, the remaining steps are the tough ones, including issues of trade barriers in government-protected sectors, free labour movement and certain investment restrictions.
The Asean summits held this year on the AEC have turned out to be more a reality check whether the AEC would be possible at all, and many who are involved are now talking more of a “vision” than a roadmap, which is discouraging given the fact that the AEC launch is technically just two years and a few months away.
In fact, there is a need to temper the expectations of what can be achieved by end-2015. It is time for the bloc&’s member states to articulate what is possible and what not and then set a realistic timeframe and many Asean leaders are already calling for an honest assessment.
This assessment needs to take into account few issues, like implementing a common Asean visa system and resolving regional disputes on a diplomatic level, which must be resolved in the near future if integration moves forward.
The Brunei Times