One year to go for the AEC: general overview
When the ASEAN Economic Community was to become a reality, the original start date was 1 January 2015. That was later extended, by 365 days, so the start date is now just over 12 months away.
There’s no doubt the region as a bloc was not ready for a 1 January timetable, and there are plenty of people willing to suggest the 31 December 2015 date is equally unlikely. The question is how do those charged with implementing the framework view the situation, at least in public forums and pronouncements?
Naturally enough, the various government ministers and functionaries involved in the day-to-day preparations for the AEC are putting on the bravest of faces and in this issue we will look at the 46th ASEAN Economic Ministers’ and Related Meetings which took place in Myanmar between 25 and 28 August this year. The meetings were part of a broader series of high-level discussions which involved the 10 members of ASEAN and its dialogue partners, namely, Australia, Canada, China, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, Republic of Korea and the United States.
The economic ministers reviewed the progress of the implementation of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Blueprint since the 24th ASEAN Summit. According to the information released after the event, it is claimed ASEAN has implemented 82.1 percent of the 229 prioritised key deliverables which were targeted for completion by 2013.
Obviously, since 2013 has well and truly come and gone it could be argued the regional nations have, collectively, failed, since 17.9 percent of the key deliverables had not been completed. The question is whether the original key targets were aimed a little high, or there has been a collective failure to push forward as aggressively as they might?
With just a year left, there is likely to be a great deal of last-minute hustling and face-saving from all parties involved, with politicians almost certain to be putting even greater pressure on their civil services and private partnerships to deliver by 31 December 2015.
The Myanmar economic ministers meeting pronouncements, while highlighting the successes to that point, were also well aware of the shortcomings. For example, the ministers noted that by mid-August this year, 52 key deliverables for the 2014-2015 period had been implemented, although they didn’t elaborate on just how many hadn’t been reached.
The ministers did stress that in order to achieve AEC integration by the end of 2015 they would need to focus in priority areas and those measures which would ‘potentially have the most impact in achieving the AEC’.
The ministers commented on the key achievements within the four ‘pillars’ which will round out the start of the AEC, generally giving a ‘thumbs up’ in all areas. Nonetheless, in the next article we will look at what the ministers saw as the key issues and challenges to the AEC.