2015, the year of ASEAN

2015, year of the ASEAN Economic Community

2015 will be a critical year for ASEAN as the ASEAN Economic Community will officially be launched by 31 December 2015. Much has been accomplished towards the achievement of this milestone, but people and businesses still need to embody and benefit from the ASEAN community.

31 December 2015: launch of the ASEAN Economic Community

At a time of global economic enthusiasm, the leaders of Southeast Asia were optimistic about their common future. In 2007, it was therefore agreed that the ASEAN Economic Community project -AEC – would be accelerated to be established by 2015, while it was initially conceived for 2020.

Political challenges for ASEAN

Much has changed since 2007: many countries, especially the more advanced, have suffered and are still suffering from one of the worst economic crisis of all times that began in 2008. And even though Southeast Asia remains a stronghold for global growth, many ASEAN countries still experience the ripples of difficult times abroad.

Developed countries have suffered the most: though the US seems to finally show signs of recovery, Europe is still far from economic stability. In Asia where some countries have maintained good activity through the crisis, nationalistic sentiment is on the rise. It provides a fertile ground to exacerbate expansionist appetites from the stronger countries.

Southeast Asia is not exempt of these frictions; in 2014, ASEAN has experienced several tensions with China. Vietnam and the Philippines have especially confronted their giant neighbor over the resource-rich South China Sea. The situation has thankfully soothed a little, but the Chinese leaders are the ones with the strong hand, and they can unilaterally decide to play fair with their neighbors or impose their views.

Within Southeast Asia, or even within some ASEAN countries, many lesser conflicts in 2014 have also brought some shade on an otherwise bright situation. They could still bring some clouds in 2015:

  • opposition from Cambodia and Vietnam on Lao projects to build dams on the Mekong river
  • sinking of Vietnamese fishing ships in Indonesian waters, and various other fishing vessels trespassing report from coast guards in the South China Sea
  • ongoing religious community conflicts in the South of Thailand, North of Myanmar and Southeast of the Philippines
  • conflicts between different factions in Thailand, which has seen a coup d’état in 2014
  • serious political struggles between majority and oppositions in Myanmar, Malaysia and even Indonesia where the newly elected president has already experienced a political setback in parliamentary elections

Review the news from Southeast Asia:

Worries from the upcoming ASEAN Economic Community

On the ground, the people of several ASEAN countries are voicing concerns about the ASEAN Economic Community. Some fear that their countries will be invaded by foreign workers coming to take the jobs and salaries of the locals, others that foreign companies will crush local businesses and steal the wealth to bring it back home.

These nationalistic views are often expressed by people who do not have a clear understanding of the AEC. Many people in ASEAN are actually not even aware of the upcoming economic integration of ASEAN and the actual changes that it will bring.

Grasping the ASEAN community

The ASEAN countries still need to communicate to their