BY CHARLES SANTIAGO
NOVEMBER 21 — It’s the 27th time that Asean heads of states and world leaders, such as yourselves, will be meeting to discuss the initiative for Asean integration, which deals with the gaps in economic development in the region, besides meetings with other dialogue partners such as Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea and the US.
The formation of the Asean Economic Community in the next six weeks, similar to that of the European Union, which is characterised by a single market and the free intra-regional flow of goods, services and investment will be the main focus of the meetings and has captured the imagination of global and regional economic observers.
Asean has been mouthing that it works in the interest of the people. But the economic integration, fashioned to look as if it prioritises the welfare of the people, only focuses on Business Asean and not Social Asean.
Business Asean, which includes the free trade agreements such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, European Union-Asean trade deal or the recently concluded Transpacific Partnership Agreement, promote multinationals, Asean big businesses and lobbyists.
The social dimension to the integration efforts by the ten member countries — Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos, Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia and the Philippines — is therefore sorely missing. Read more