Fifty years of being one
There is a peculiar irony in the way that, as one side of the world seeks to close its doors and adopt an isolationist stance (cf. Brexit and Trumpism), another celebrates openness and welcomes a co-operative future.
Which viewpoint will win more friends and influence more people?
In Jakarta on August 11th 2017, the ASEAN Secretariat celebrated the Association’s Golden Jubilee. ASEAN Secretary-General, Lê Lương Minh talked of the pleasures and pains of aligning the hopes of, initially, five very different countries, and then accommodating the views and expectations of five more members. “Five decades on, the region is now in a much better shape than when it first started,” said Minh.
Indeed, ASEAN has matured into a community focused on economic integration and growth, and consensus-building. It has, as Minh noted, “been able to foster deeper understanding, and build trust and partnership to pursue common interest in the context of diversity and in full recognition of its varied but shared interests and aspirations”. This landmark anniversary, he added, “sets the tone for the next 50 years”.
As an economic community, ASEAN, with a population of around 630m, is now the third largest market in the world after China and India. It is the seventh largest in the world and the third in Asia in terms of GDP. This currently stands in the order of US$2.5trn, with actual growth of around 4.8%. Projections for ASEAN to become the fourth largest economic bloc by 2030 are already on the table.
As the Philippines became the chair of ASEAN in 2017 its theme of “Partnering for Change, Engaging the World” talked of promoting unity “with and among ASEAN member states and its global partners”.
Maybe the volume of that message should be turned up loud enough to drown out the fractious posturing of those who seek a less co-operative model in the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union. Just a thought. Happy birthday ASEAN!
ASEAN was founded in Bangkok, Thailand on August 8th 1967 upon the signing of the ASEAN Declaration by its five original members of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. ASEAN membership now includes Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam.