How ready is the region for ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) 2015?
A 2012 survey puts the level of regional awareness of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at 81%. However, this is only in terms of familiarity with the ASEAN name; the lack of basic understanding about the ASEAN is a high 76%. With such weak popularity, it is a concern how much interest and support ASEAN is able to generate for its initiatives. Worse, it puts into question how ASEAN Members prepare their countries for the many commitments they make to the regional association.
The same survey shows that business people have a better understanding of the ASEAN, with some of them involved in regional integration processes. Yet, both business people and the general public alike share common apprehensions about the ASEAN Community, specifically: in the area of labor migration and economic competition, concerned as they are about the development gap in the region (ASEAN 2013). There are three dimensions to the ASEAN Community – political-security, economic and socio-cultural. However, judging from the 2012 survey, it is the economic dimension that ASEAN citizens are most apprehensive about.
It turns out that the apprehension is widespread, and also affects country officials. While the ASEAN Secretariat initially downplayed the significance of the change of the rollout date from 1st January to 31st December 2015 (Secretariat 2012), succeeding reports would point to the differing levels of ASEAN Members’ preparations as among the constraints to AEC 2015 (Ashayagachat 2012; Maierbrugger 2012).
This Primer seeks to give an initial assessment of the Philippines’ readiness for AEC 2015. It starts with a discussion of the role of regionalism in the political economy, and within which it locates ASEAN’s brand of regional cooperation. It gives a background on the elements, targets and ambitions of the AEC, and how far the different ASEAN Members have delivered on their commitments. It is followed by an elaboration and assessment of the efforts done by different agencies to prepare the country for the AEC. It closes with a challenge to look beyond 2015, and to consider broader issues and questions.
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