The ASEAN region is one of the fastest growing markets, and yet not that well known. While ASEAN has made tremendous steps and has a promising future ahead. The remarkable fact of ASEAN is the fact that the countries within the region are very diverse. Some countries are in very different stages than others. But they all share the potential of enormous growth. Since there is a lot of criticism still on the ASEAN region, and potential risks, overall ASEAN has been very successful. And many more is in store for ASEAN. Future plans which help this region develop even more.
ASEAN was found in 1967, this was during the Cold war. It started with five members. Those members were Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. ASEAN was formed because they were in between the geopolitical competition of the United States and the Soviet Union. There were already two earlier attempts of forming a similar organization as ASEAN, but those attempts failed. Therefore the prospects were not too high for the formation of ASEAN. One of the main reasons for forming ASEAN was also because of the threat of communism by the Soviet Union.
A short and simple document was created at the beginning of ASEAN, it contained just five articles. It declared the establishment of an Association for Regional Cooperation among the Countries of Southeast Asia to be known as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. In this association the purposes and aims of ASEAN were written down. Those purposes and aims were divided under in various topics namely, the cooperation in economic, social, cultural, technical, educational and other fields. Another main aim was the promotion of regional peace and stability by respect for law, justice and the principles of the United Nations charter.
Since the founding of ASEAN many accomplishments have been made already. Nowadays ASEAN covers a land area of 4.4 million square kilometers, 3% of the total land area of Earth. ASEAN territorial waters cover an area about three times larger than its land territory. Member countries have a combined population of approximately 625 million people, 8.8% of the world’s population. ASEAN has grown out as a successful organization. First of all, the economy of the ASEAN region has grown a lot. If ASEAN were one economy, as the ASEAN Economic Community intends it to be, it would be seventh largest in the world with a combined GDP of $2.4 trillion in 2013. With over 600 million people, ASEAN’s potential market is larger than the EU, and has the world’s third largest workforce (Hill and Menon 2012). In 2006, ASEAN was home to the headquarters of 49 companies in the Forbes Global 2000. By 2013, that number had risen to 74. ASEAN includes 227 of the world’s companies with more than $1 billion in revenues (McKinsey).
Still quit recent, ASEAN has become a single market. Which is a huge step. Being a single market creates a lot of opportunities for investments and trade.
One of the accomplishments which is not practically mentioned when doing research is the fact that ASEAN has really created a new culture, the ASEAN culture. When doing research I came across songs and music, sports and cultural heritage. ASEAN has become more of a cohesion. While when ASEAN started, not all the countries could particularly go along. That brings me to another accomplishment of the ASEAN. The remaining of peace within the region. The fact that ASEAN has many different cultures and religions makes this even more of an accomplishment.
Because of the visa-free travel between ASEAN member states, there has been an increase in tourism from within the ASEAN region. In 2010, 47% or 34 million out of 73 million tourists in ASEAN member-states were from other ASEAN countries (Jakarta post)
The first fifty years of ASEAN were only a small taste of what is in store for ASEAN. More investments are coming to the region. Recent research shows the region now receives more foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows than China. In 2013, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, known as the ASEAN-5 countries, received $128.4 billion in foreign investment, up 7% from the previous year and topping China’s FDI receipts of $117.6 billion, which declined 2.9% from 2012 (Chanel news Asia). The fact that ASEAN now has a single market will also create a lot of opportunities for the region.
Another goal for ASEAN is economic integration. This is a challenging goal, since there are many different situations in the countries. But it is not considered impossible.
Even though ASEAN is still not fully developed the fact that they have accomplished a lot cannot be ignored. A great foundation has been set the past 50 years, and this is an opportunity for ASEAN to develop even more. Many critics compare ASEAN to the EU. While those two have completely different foundations where they started with. Therefore it is difficult to predict whether it will succeed. But I think, as long as ASEAN continues to do it the ASEAN way, many progress can be made.