The AE what?

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The AE what?

Unless something drastic takes place, 31 December 2015 will usher in a potentially new age in economics as far as this region is concerned with the start of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). The AEC commences in less than 21 months and yet, somewhat surprisingly, a reports by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) suggests many people are not aware of its looming shadow.

In fact, the ADB went so far as to say that a distinct lack of interest from business communities in how ASEAN as a bloc is developing in a business sense might be one of the factors slowing the progress towards the AEC’s eventual implementation.

THE ADB conducted a specific business survey among 381 ASEAN businesses across the nine member states with the focus solely on how business is being developed within the region, with special emphasis on the end of 2015 start for the AEC.

The findings were released in an online publication entitled, ‘The Asean Economic Community: A Work in Progress.’

The title appears apt, since an astounding 55 percent of the respondents claimed they were not aware of the AEC and its start date. This from business people in all nine member states, suggesting a general apathy towards the potential benefits that may accrue with the implementation of the southeast Asian trading bloc.

It’s not as if the business people, in the main, were not aware of what was happening beyond their own borders, as the ADB noted that most firms were usually quite well aware of the existence of Free Trade Agreements (FTA’s) between ASEAN and China, for example.

It was fairly clear from the survey that China looms far larger on the average business persons horizon than the local trading bloc, even though the advent of the AEC will create one of the largest trading conglomerates in the world. At least that’s the outside view; the inside view clearly suggests that in the first few years of the AEC it might well have a lot less of an impact than its creators hope. Of course, only time will tell.

The primary concerns of businesses surveyed by the ADB centred around non-tariff barriers, the various regulatory standards extant in member states, the prospects of even heavier regulation than is currently the case, and a general lack of readily accessible information about foreign business environments.

As this series is making clear, we hope, the pathway to the new trading bloc still has some way to go to achieve the lofty goals set for it, and it is unrealistic to expect all the potential glitches will have been ironed out before the end of 2015.