Sun, 27 Dec 2009
From:
By Li Xiaoyu
JAKARTA, Dec. 26 (Xinhua) -- The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has gained significant headway in many areas. With the ASEAN Charter and the Roadmap for the ASEAN Community, the 10-member regional group succeeded in making achievements in its 14thsummit and 15th summit respectively in this March and October, which brought the ASEAN integration process into a new stage.

At the 14th summit, ASEAN leaders signed the Second Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) Work Plan II for the period 2009-2015 and noted that the Work Plan, together with the three Community Blueprints, would help move forward the community-building process in a more balanced, inclusive and sustainable manner.

Meanwhile, the leaders also discussed the international economic and financial crisis and the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA), the ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement (ACIA) and the Protocol of the 7th Package of the ASEAN Framework Agreement on Services (AFAS) commitments, which, together with other economic cooperation documents, will facilitate liberalization in the goods trade sector, service sector, investment sector and labor force sector.

And at the 15th summit, ASEAN leaders deliberated the progress made in the implementation of the ASEAN Charter particularly the operationalization of the Committee of Permanent Representatives (CPR) in Jakarta, and welcomed the establishment of the ASEAN Political-Security Community, the ASEAN Economic Community and the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Councils which will help coordinate ASEAN cooperation in all the three pillars.

As mandated by the ASEAN Charter, the inauguration of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) is a highlight and reflects ASEAN's determination to realize a truly people-centered community by 2015.

The leaders emphasized that the successful building of an ASEAN Community that is truly people-oriented by 2015 requires the cooperation and contribution of all sectors of ASEAN society and the participation of ASEAN peoples in all aspects of community-building.

As for the ASEAN, the two summits are meaningful as they were the first two most important conferences after the ASEAN Charter entered into force in Dec. 15, 2008. The Charter provides the legal and institutional framework for the ASEAN to be a more rules-based, effective and people-centered organization paving the way for realizing an ASEAN Community by 2015.

With the Charter, the ASEAN leaders recognized that enhancing intra-regional connectivity would benefit all ASEAN member states and their peoples, contribute to promoting ASEAN centrality in the regional architecture, facilitate the building of an ASEAN Community that is competitive and increasingly interlinked with the wider Asia-Pacific region and the world, and serve as a foundation for a more enhanced East Asian connectivity.

Through the two summits, the ASEAN member countries began to implement the Charter jointly, which will guide the construction of ASEAN community. Meanwhile, to respond effectively to the financial crisis, the ASEAN member countries not only reached a series of economic and trading cooperation agreements, but also agreed to continue domestic stimulus packages to ensure sustained recovery, to support the G-20 Statement to implement the transparent and efficient management reforms of the International Financial Institutions, and to support that the ASEAN Chair and the Secretary-General of ASEAN should be invited to participate in future G-20 Summits.

These agreements showed the collective views of ASEAN members on global economic issues, which is a sign that the ASEAN economic integration is processing to reality step by step. This was also approved by an ASEAN document issued later in November, which said six ASEAN countries, including Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore will cancel taxation of most products since Jan. 1, 2010, and the other four will do the same by 2015.

Surin Pitsuwan, secretary-general of the organization, said that the becoming operational of ASEAN free-trade agreements is a fruit of all ASEAN members' efforts, which shows ASEAN's correctness during the world's trend against protectionism.

Apart from that, Surin also said that the would-be enacted ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement (FTA) pact would pave the way for more efforts to build the community in the ASEAN. The pact is scheduled to take into effect on January 1, 2010.

One of the ways to strengthen ties between ASEAN nations is to create the ASEAN Community. Being an ASEAN Community is advantageous since it can lead to international collaborations in mitigating and preventing problems such as terrorism, migrant workers, transnational crime, energy and territorial disputes.

However, the ASEAN integration still sees some obstacles on its way. On one hand, ASEAN member countries have an inconsistency in terms of security, economy and social culture. On the other hand, the construction of ASEAN Economic Community is also in trouble, because some ASEAN countries are trying to postpone the operation of the ASEAN free trade zone so as to protect their domestic industry. Aria Bima, an Indonesian parliament member, said on Nov.30 that the free trade zone would harm 10 of the country's industrial sectors.

Later in December, Indonesia's Vice President Boediono and some other senior officials also said that they were discussing with industrial associations to readjust the exception list for the free trade zone and may try to change the free trade zone opening schedule. As the largest economy in the ASEAN bloc, Indonesia has a non-ignorable influence in the ASEAN Economic Community construction. If the country shows any tendency to protectionism, the future of this community will be affected.

At present, analysts say that these troubles still have no clear solutions and are fragile to the nationalism feelings. There are new problems and new challenges for ASEAN member countries to consider and overcome the uncertainty to seek for trustworthiness.



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