Tony Fernandes, CEO of AirAsia, gives his views on ASEAN and its integration further into the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015. In this interview by Maria Ressa of Rappler, he expresses his ambitions and concerns about ASEAN, highlighted through examples on tourism and air transport, media and entertainment.
Note: FTA = Free Trade Agreement
This interview of Tony Fernandes, global CEO of AirAsia, was organized on the occasion of the World Economic Forum held in Manila, Philippines in May 2014.
Key points of Tony Fernandes’ take on ASEAN
- Initially skeptic about global forums, Tony Fernandes has become a convert, seing how he could champion ASEAN with the people gathered on these occasions.
- ASEAN politicians should put their national interest before their own, and understand that ASEAN can be a much bigger market as a whole, therefore a much more attractive market for companies than any national market on its own.
- The ASEAN Economic Community could be a big change for all companies. For AirAsia, it could mean having only one airline, setting planes and going wherever they want, more efficient use of resources thanks to freedom of movement of people, less work permits required… generally reducing the cost of business.
- The 2007 AEC agreement is still far from being completed, but things are in motion.
- There is a disconnect between the aims of governments and private companies. Politicians meet and sign a lot of agreements, but the implementation is often not as effective, as the real needs of people doing business are often not properly addressed.
- ASEAN needs to raise the consciousness and awareness of each of the country’s people about ASEAN, its “branding”. For example, “SEA games” are not called the “ASEAN games”; the ASEAN film industry doesn’t have its award or film festival.
- Lack of vision, personal interests, and national protectionism are some of the obstacles to the ASEAN integration.
- Governments should come together and try opening a few industries to the ASEAN market to test its potential. If it is successful, more people will be interested in ASEAN, which will lead to more openness.
- “You can wait for things to happen, or you can affect change.” Sometimes, people get pissed off at go getters, but that is how you can make things move forward.
- The challenge is to make ASEAN smaller, one place, and give the people of ASEAN the benefits of being part of ASEAN.
- The younger generation doesn’t care about differences, they enjoy being together, multiple cultures, and traveling. They want to work and study in different places. Tony Fernandes’ bet with AirAsia was to enable that, no matter what national politicians said.
Tony Fernandes is very active on social media, you can follow him on twitter: @tonyfernandes
View this interview from by Rappler on Youtube.