AEC Implementation Will Not Change The Way ASEAN Goes

The ASEAN Economic Community starts on December 31, 2015. Little is to be expected in terms of free movements of goods and people as each member country continues to camp on its positions.

The 47th ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting which took place over the week end in Kuala Lumpur concluded that the formation of the ASEAN Economic Community, due to start off at the end of the year, will not dramatically change the course of things, according to Malaysia International Trade and Industry Minister Mustapa Mohamed. ASEAN is fully acknowledging hurdles lay ahead in achieving global competitiveness at par with major economies.

The Ministers of the 10 ASEAN members at the ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Meeting have reinforced their commitment to intensify efforts to reduce economic gaps among member states while engaging more extensively with their dialogue partners to take trade to a significantly higher plane.
ASEAN currently faces new economic challenges such as China’s economic problems, the slide in ASEAN currencies’ value linked to political uncertainties in some countries such as Malaysia or Thailand. Mustapa Mohamed urged ASEAN not to backslide on plans to raise competitiveness and that the momentum to this end would be maintained no matter what, reported Malaysia news agency Bernama.

AEC ambitious work plans and proposals were being put to the test now given the vagaries in the international marketplace brought by the persistent slide in crude oil prices and pressure on several regional currencies, declared the Minister.

A major issue is the essence of AEC on its own. Hurdles to a completely open market are likely to remain unsolved as long as ASEAN members still do not want to give up on their own prerogatives in most cases when taking decisions. And despite fostering trade facilitation and harmonisation, the removal of trade barriers, the free flow of people and goods among the members, many exceptions have also been put in place just to be sure that each country can deliberately exclude itself from AEC rules when needed.

An entrepreneur such as Tony Fernandes, AirAsia CEO, has been complaining heavily about the absence of an ASEAN authority which would enforce ASEAN rules. It is very obvious in air transport where many countries such as Indonesia, Laos or Myanmar, continue to exclude themselves from the ASEAN open sky agreement by evoking their ‘special status’.

A first step is the establishment of ASEAN Solutions and Settlements for Investments, Services and Trade. But it will only have a consultative role and will not be a decision maker.

While AEC 506 measures have been implemented to 91.5% to date- according to official ASEAN Statements- , issues on transport, services and the ASEAN Single Window still remain.

Mustapa Mohamed was confident that ASEAN members could then complete 95% before AEC starts on December 31, 2015.
Mustapa said there were concerns on cross-border land transports, of which some local businesses have said that it could affect their businesses. The package of services commitments is also a challenging one, as it will open many service sectors to foreign investors and employment. The protocol to implement the 10th package of the services commitment is due to be officially signed at November’s ASEAN Summit.

ASEAN economic ministers also discussed the integration of the services sector and the implementation of the mutual recognition arrangements (MRA) for the mobility of skilled professionals in the region.

Finally, the implementation of the AEC on December 31, 2015, is unlikely to see major changes in the daily life of its citizens or for foreign travellers – at least for another year or two…

(Partial source : BERNAMA)