The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is the premier regional association in East Asia and the most prominent regional grouping in the Third World. Since its inception in 1967, ASEAN has come to be regarded as an important factor for stability in Southeast Asia through its own cooperative activities, its policies of maintaining active dialogues with the major powers, and its promotion of wider cooperation in East Asia and the Asia Pacific. ASEAN has also evolved into an effective regional body that promotes economic growth and cooperation among its member states. Key to ASEAN’s success is the ‘ASEAN way’ that stresses on respect for national sovereignty, avoiding confrontation, reaching agreement through consensus and proceeding at a pace which all members are comfortable with. Critics of ASEAN label the regional organsation as weak, ineffective, managed by a powerless secretariat and being bogged down by conflicting interests of its member states. The collapse of several ASEAN economies during the 1997/1998 crisis, the prolonged conflict in South China Sea, the unresolved haze problem, humanitarian crisis in Myanmar and the rampant human smuggling activities within the regions are some of the manifestations of ASEAN’s failure in addressing national and cross-national issues in Southeast Asia. ASEAN’s conflicting image – strong/weak, effective/ineffective – will be further tested when the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) takes root in 2016. The AEC aims to foster economic integration among ASEAN members and ultimately create economic market that is worth USD2.6 trillion in terms of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
To mark the launch of the ASEAN Economic Community 2015, the Asian Studies Centre at St Antony’s College, University of Oxford, the Institute of Malaysian and International Studies (IKMAS) at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, and the World Trade Institute, University of Bern, hosted the first ASEAN Economic Integration Forum at St. Antony’s College on 10 November 2015. The main objectives of the ASEAN Economic Integration Forum 2015 were to discuss a host of economic governance challenges facing ASEAN Member States as they strive to establish the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) and to explore forward looking proposals to enhance the implementation of the ASEAN Economic Community 2025 objectives.
The Institute of Malaysian and International Studies (IKMAS) hosted the ASEAN Economic Integration Forum 2016at the Kuala Lumpur Regional Centre for Arbitration, Kuala Lumpur on the 14th to 15th September 2016. The theme of the forum was“Towards Global ASEAN: Prospects, Impacts and Challenges”. This iteration of the Forum focused on a critical analysis of the prospects and challenges for ASEAN and regional economic integration, and the socio-economic and political impacts of ASEAN’s economic integration on its member states and the region. Reports on the forum can be found at MalaysiaKini, Bernama, MalayMail, The Sun Daily and Utusan Online.