Saturday

6th Mar 2021

Southeast Asian countries plan EU-style union by 2015

  • Thailand - the disparity of ASEAN economies will make it hard to forge a common market (Photo: Wikipedia)

The leaders of ten Southeast Asian countries have signed a declaration to integrate their economies and construct an economic and political union modelled on that of the European Union by 2015.

Meeting in Thailand over the weekend for the annual Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the heads of ten Asian countries agreed to the Cha-Am Hua Hin Declaration on the Roadmap for An ASEAN Community (2009-2015). The plan looks to build a single market - although without a euro-style common currency - within six years.

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"This ASEAN goal is made even more urgent by the global financial crisis," read the 12-page declaration.

"ASEAN needs to respond effectively to this financial crisis in order to retain its central position in the regional architecture. In this connection, we mandated all ASEAN organs to be guided by and to fully implement the ASEAN Charter."

ASEAN, founded in 1967 to replace the Association of Southeast Asia, brings together Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

The region is slightly bigger than the European Union in terms of population, the former being home to around 570 million people and the latter some 500 million, but their economies bear no comparison. ASEAN has a combined annual GDP of €870 billion, while the EU's GDP clocks in at over €12 trillion.

Thailand's prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, said the creation of an "attractive single market" for the region was urgent.

The move further develops the bloc's integration, moving a step beyond the charter the nations signed in 2007 that requires consensus amongst all member states for any ASEAN-level actions.

The group is also to construct a human rights unit, but the body would be largely toothless, being unable to criticise any abuses occurring in any single country.

However, the wide disparities between the different economies in ASEAN "makes it difficult to create common standards because our national standards remain so far apart," said finance minister Korn Chatikavanij in an interview, according to Bloomberg news.

"We've got to be realistic in the kind of goals that we set for 2015," Mr Korn continued.

"We're not talking about the level of integration that has taken place in the EU."

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