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Prospects and Agenda for the ASEAN Regional Integration

The initiative towards regional integration of the ten member nations (Brunei
Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos,
Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam) of the ASEAN no
doubt brings about prospects for greater and enhanced cooperation. As it is ASEAN
countries combined cover a huge land area of about 4.46 million square kilometers, 3
percent of the world’s total land area and representing about 8.8 percent of the global
population. (http:en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Association_of _Southeast_Asian_Nations).

This ‘landmark’ vision towards framing “a single market and production base”
seeking to set the stage for “a free flow of goods, services and investments and a freer flow
of capital” in ASEAN can presume to augur well for the ten member nations of Southeast
Asia in terms of heightened collaboration. But there are issues that need to be resolved. For
one, ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint a host of many aspirations and ideals.

Will ASEAN connectivity serve to forge a united stance among member states
against the presumed hegemony of non-state actors or supranational institutions acting in
the world’s stage? Will ASEAN regional integration serve as catalyst towards protecting
weak members against inequality in the globalized regime? Will it serve as the vehicle
towards transforming struggling nations from the throes of poverty? Or will the ASEAN
initiative build more regional institutions that may further dislocate impoverished
societies? Will the integration be compatible with existing laws and policies of the members
such as competition laws? Are there sufficient safety nets to protect the marginalized
citizens and their communities with the adjustments and changes that will have to be
engendered to operationalize the integration? How are we to eliminate investment
impediments and will the actions of whatever regional institution will be created to
implement the integration to be transparent and perceived to be legitimate not only by the
governments of member nations but their citizens as well?