Will Asean follow the EU model?

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Few people are aware that Asean’s ‘Vision 2020’ of economic integration and competitiveness is to be further developed into the concept of an ‘‘Asean Economic Community (AEC)’’. The AEC is seen as the end-goal of economic integration in Asean and it could become a reality by 2015.

So will Asean follow the European Union route? Not quite.

The EU provides for the free movement of goods, services, capital (including investment) and people across the borders of member nations. Aseans seeks to do the same for goods, services, investment, capital and skilled labour. There is no freedom of movement for the poor, including the migrant workers, who have hardly any rights in Asean member countries. There will be no freedom of movement for refugees, either.

In other words, economic integration is to benefit the corporations and its managers and knowledge workers under a regime of neo-liberal policies. Not the lower-income group and the dispossessed.

This is an article I wrote for Inter Press Service last November.

Critics suspect the lack of public consultation over the Charter could be due to the real intention behind the blueprint. They see the Charter as giving a legal personality to Asean, paving the way for a regional economic framework that would facilitate investment and trade in the region, while the interests of ordinary people — workers, the poor and the marginalised — could come a distant second.

They point to the Asean Free Trade Area (AFTA), which will eliminate tariffs on all products in the region, and the Asean Framework Agreement on Services, which aims to achieve a free flow of services, both by 2015. Meanwhile, the Asean Investment Area agreement aims to facilitate a free flow of investment. Full article: Charter for Asean bloc by-passes civil society.

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