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Sunday, November 23, 2014

What will happen in ASEAN in 2015?

I think to understand the AEC you need a degree in international business. It's complicated. It's an "economic" community so economic and business terminology was used when designing the AEC. It was designed by business experts and not politicians. This is why everyone is confused. 

The 2008 AEC Blueprint (click here to download) is a road-map of objectives to the end goal of economic integration consisting of 4 main characteristics: (1) A single market and production base (2) A highly competitive economic region (3) A region of equitable economic development (4) A region fully integrated into the global economy. 

It does not matter in the slightest amount what your definition of these characteristics are because ASEAN has defined them in the AEC Blueprint. It also does not matter what objectives you think ASEAN should include in order to reach economic integration because ASEAN has already listed them in the AEC Blueprint. Finally, it really doesn't matter if you believe or don't believe ASEAN will accomplish these objectives because the Action Points listed in the AEC Blueprint give ASEAN a way to measure itself and that alone determines the level of success or failure of the end goal of economic integration. 

The characteristic that matters the most to people is the Single Market and Production Base. This particular characteristic has five core elements that impact people directly: (1) Free flow of goods (2) Free flow of services (3) Free flow of investment (4) Freer flow of capital (5) Free flow of skilled labor.
  1. Free flow of goods: This is pretty straight forward and deals with importing and exporting products in and out of all the ASEAN countries. It deals with tariffs, non-tariff barriers, rules of origin, trade facilitation, customs integration, and standards and technical barriers to trade.
  2. Free flow of services: This is extremely misunderstood by the politicians. Most associate it with 8 professions that can move freely between ASEAN countries. While this is part of it, it is not the entire story. Trade in services is governed by the ASEAN Framework Agreement in Services (AFAS) which is modeled after the General Agreement in Trade in Services (GATS) from the World Trade Organization (WTO). Countries trade one of twelve service sectors in which are 4 modes of supplying a service to a final consumer: (1) Cross-border supply (2) Consumption abroad (3) Commercial presence (4) Presence of natural persons. These 12 service sectors and 4 modes cover every job that foreigner can enter a country and get paid to do. This is the untold story that ASEAN politicians don't understand and are unable to explain to their citizens. When a country trades in services it means they are removing restrictions that prevent foreigners from entering the country and working. To date, hundreds of jobs across ASEAN have been liberalized in preparation for the AEC in 2015. ASEAN has posted all of the liberalization measures online free for anyone to download and review.
  3. Free flow of investment: This deals mostly with protecting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in 5 production type industries (1) manufacturing (2) agriculture (3) fishery (4) forestry (5) mining and quarrying sectors as well as services incidental to these sectors. 
  4. Freer flow of capital: This deals with capital markets across ASEAN. In this instance, capital refers to how business raise money to continue or expand their operations such as with stocks or bonds. 
  5. Free flow of skilled labor: This has nothing to do with hiring high skilled workers but everything to do with entering another ASEAN country faster. 
This information is what business need to know in order to be able to make decisions. For example, for most products, tariffs have been eliminated and now may be a good time to export to a city on the other side of a border where there is less competition and where the tariff free market makes shipping affordable.  A different business may invite foreigners to bid on a joint venture opportunity in order to raise more capital to make improvements on plant and equipment needed to increase their competitiveness. Still others may want to invest in a neighboring ASEAN country with a wholly owned subsidiary or joint venture to help establish different supply chains in a new market. One thing to keep in mind, there are provisions in the trade agreements that allow foreign investment to bring in foreign labor as I mentioned above describing trade in services.

Based on the news story there will be new economic zones to attract more business. So if I was a factory owner producing a product this might mean a new competitor is moving into my market which I'm already competing in and I could lose my market share. Or, worse case scenario, the tax holiday that will be offered for foreign business to set up in these new economic zones may lower their cost of doing business and thus their prices of the products or services and this may put me out of business all together. 

If I'm a factory owner and I want to lower my cost of doing business (because of new business competition) I may consider closing my business in my country and reopening it in the neighboring country in which the cost of doing business is considerably less. This means I would fire all my employees. 

These are the 2015 realities facing all ASEAN countries. This is what people need to know.

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Impact of ASEAN Integration-It’s all in the numbers!

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) decided in 1997 to transform ASEAN into a stable, prosperous, and highly competitive region with equitable economic development, and reduce poverty and socio-economic disparities by the year 2020. In 2007, ASEAN decided integration should be complete by 2015 instead.[1]

To reach this goal, ASEAN created a list of objectives called “blueprints” for the ASEAN Political Security Community (APSC), ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) and the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). Each blueprint contained action points ASEAN felt necessary to complete in order to consider ASEAN properly integrated. Anything not mentioned in the blueprints is not an objective of ASEAN integration. However, it does not mean it will not be integrated in the future. It’s only not part of the current list of objectives.

In the case of the AEC, a timeline was also included to gradually easy the individual economies into a state of integration. Moving too quickly or all at once could have shocked some of the weaker economies and created a crisis that separated economies even more rather than integrate them.

The AEC timeline was divided into 4 phases and during each phase specific action points were implemented. The phases were as follows: Phase 1: 2008-2009, Phase 2: 2010-2011, Phase 3: 2012-2013 and Phase 4: 2014-2015. Currently, ASEAN is in Phase 4 of the AEC integration process.

The AEC consists of 4 pillars of integration. (1) Single Market and Production Base; (2) Competitive Economic Region; (3) Equitable Economic Development; (4) Integration into the Global Economy.  During each phase of the integration process, various levels of integration of these pillars took place.

To ensure a timely implementation of the AEC initiatives, ASEAN has established a monitoring mechanism called the AEC Scorecard. As a compliance tool, the AEC Scorecard reports the progress of implementing the various AEC measures, identifies implementation gaps and challenges, and tracks the realization of the AEC by 2015.[2] In short, it only looks at the AEC Blueprint objectives.

While the scorecard is important to monitor the success of the ASEAN objectives, more important are the impacts across the region. Various international organizations routinely assess countries around the world for various reasons. The data collected can be used to show impacts of decisions by governments as well as organizations such as ASEAN.  

For example, following the 1997 announcements from the ASEAN Declaration of ASEAN Concord II and the ASEAN 2020 Vision, higher than normal increases of GDP[3] across several GMS states occurred. From 1997 to 2012, annual GDP increases averaged around 10% for Cambodia, 9% for Laos, almost 5% for Thailand and around 8% for Vietnam. During this same time period the United States only averaged around 4% increases in annual GDP.

GDP/Capita (PPP) during this time period also experienced average annual increases that possibly increased standards of living. Thailand GDP/Capita (PPP) average annual increase from 1998-2012 was 5% while Vietnam and Laos both had increases of 7% with Cambodia the highest average annual increase in GDP/Capita of 8%. Meanwhile, in the United States, increases in GDP/Capita only averaged 3%.

Other areas that might indicate improvements in standards of living is the Poverty Gap assessment by the World Bank. This indication of extreme poverty measures how many people are living on less than US $1.25 per day. In 1992, it was estimated 730,000 Lao citizens were living on less than $1.25 per day. By 2008, this number was reduced to about 550,000. This was a reduction of 25%. In 1994, Cambodia had 1.2 million citizens living on less than $1.25 per day. By 2009, this number was reduced 60% to almost 500,000 people. Thailand’s population of 56 million in 1990 had approximately 1.3 million people living on less than $1.25 per day. By 2010, this number was reduced 98% to around 26,500 people. In 1993, Vietnam had almost 16.5 million people living on less than $1.25 per day. By 2008, this number was reduced 81% to almost 3.2 million people. Also keep in mind, according to the US Census Bureau, there are 46.2 million Americans living in poverty in the US in 2010.

Another factor that helps to improve the lives of people is the ability to find work. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is when a person or business from one country invest in another country by either equity capital, reinvestment of earnings, other long term capital, or short term capital as shown in the balance of payments. FDI has many benefits for a country.

For example, in order to run the business, you need employees. The employees earn wages which they spend on the local economy. The increased demand of the local citizens prompts producers to produce more of what is being bought. Higher labor demand labor increases wages and encourages innovation to reduce costs. Also, with the ASEAN Free Trade Area (FTA), 98% tariff elimination on intra ASEAN trade opens up new markets for the new FDI created business to compete in.

Thailand and Vietnam, average annual increase in FDI was 15% from 1998 to 2012. Myanmar and Cambodia annual average was 21% and 25% respectively. Laos had the largest average annual FDI with 57%. Total FDI net inflows from 1998 to 2012 was more than 188 billion dollars in the 4 GMS countries.[4]

There are literally hundreds of various indicators that could be examined to assess standard of living in the GMS states to see how the ASEAN FTA has impacted the region. While there may be other factors that added to positive results, chances are the ASEAN FTA is providing the most positive impact. For a clearer indication of the success of the AEC integration, don’t only look at the AEC Scorecard. The real impact is in the numbers!




[1]  ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint (2008)
[2] ASEAN Economic Community Scorecard-2nd Reprint (2013)
[3] GDP, PPP (current international $) World Development Indicators from the World Bank
[4] The World Bank-World Development Indicators 2014

Monday, May 26, 2014

A Look Back at the ASEAN Declaration (a rewrite)

By Mark Hefner


NOTE: The ASEAN Declaration can be found on the ASEAN website here.

In 1967, I was two years old and only starting to be aware of the world around me. My life was simple, my needs were simple and I was living safely oblivious to the ever changing world around me.

In the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson was president and dealing with the “Long Hot Summer” race riots in the United States while at the same time trying to manage the Vietnam conflict in Southeast Asia that involved China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand.

Meanwhile, diplomats of Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia were meeting to solve regional disagreements between the three island nations when they realized only they could solve the problems in Southeast Asia.

ASEAN founders, considering their Southeast Asian similarities and common problems, felt the need to strengthen their existing bonds of regional solidarity and cooperation. Regionally, this was definitively needed. Indochina was a mess as the United States and U.S. allies were trying to eliminate the communist from Vietnam. The Vietnam War was impacting much of mainland Southeast Asia to include Cambodia, Laos and parts of Thailand.

Mistrust was in other places in ASEAN as well. For example, east of Indochina, the Philippines seem to be prospering under the highly controversial Ferdinand Marcos who was just starting out his 21 year reign as their president. The Marcos reign was filled with corruption, nepotism, despotism, political repression and human rights violations (Thanks Wiki). A bit southwest of the Philippines, Indonesia was recovering from a communist purge that took at least 500,000 lives following a failed coup by the 30 September Movement. Malaysia also was struggling with issues that would eventually turn into race riots in 1969 prior to the country prospering. Singapore also was struggling during this time period. At one point, Singapore was part of Malaysia and another point, expelled from Malaysia. Race riots also plagued this tiny island nation. On top of all of these problems in Southeast Asia, influences, such as the USA and China, were trying to pull the local Southeast Asian government's policies in various different directions.

ASEAN’s founding fathers needed to create an environment with which ASEAN members could respond to issues impacting the region. In 1967, this was just a dream. To borrow a phrase from the bible, “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” Even though they wanted to, the trust and the infrastructure were not in place yet for ASEAN to jointly react to regional trepidations that were already impacting mainland Southeast Asia.

While the task at hand was monumentous, ASEAN realized their cherished ideals of peace, freedom, social justice and economic well-being are best obtained by creating an atmosphere of understanding, good neighborliness and meaningful cooperation among the countries that are already bound together by history and similar culture.  They understood that each country share in the responsibility to strengthen the economic and social stability of the region to ensure peace and their own national development. In addition, ASEAN member states will be on guard to protect the region from any form of external influences that threaten the stability and security in order to preserve their national identities in accordance with the ideals and aspiration of their peoples.

With all of this in mind, the five original founding fathers declared 5 points they felt could be the solution for this troubled region.

The first point was that an Association for Regional Cooperation among the countries of South-East Asia, to be known as ASEAN, is hereby established.

The second point declared there would be 7 Aims and Purposes of ASEAN:
  1. Every country develops at different rates. Some countries, such as Singapore, have developed faster than any country has ever developed while others such as Laos seem to develop at a snail’s pace. The ASEAN forefathers felt that economic growth, social progress, and cultural development would be accelerated if it was done through joint endeavors in the spirit of equality and partnership. This in turn would strengthen the foundation for a prosperous and peaceful community of South-East Asian nations.
  2.  If the region was to be at peace and politically stable, there has to be respect for justice and the rule of law between the Southeast Asian countries. ASEAN will also adhere to the 7 principals in Article Two of the United Nations (UN) Charter. Article Two dealt with national sovereignty of individual states, fulfilling their obligations as UN members in accordance with the UN Charter, peaceful dispute resolution, refraining from threats or the use of force against another state, state support the actions of the UN, ensuring that non-UN members act peacefully and restricts the UN from involvement in domestic affairs of individual states unless an individual states actions involve any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression.
  3. ASEAN will promote collaboration and mutual assistance in the economic, social, cultural, technical, scientific and administrative fields. This would eventually open the doors for all the progress that was made at the summits and ministerial meetings after this event.
  4. ASEAN promised to help each other in the form of training and research facilities in education, professional, technical and admin areas. At this point in time, these areas seem like seeds for the ASEAN University Network (www.aunsec.org) as well as some of the current agreements they have in trade in services.
  5. ASEAN will collaborate more effectively for the greater utilization of the ASEAN member states agriculture and industries. A benefit of collaboration would be sharing best practices in order to eliminate costs and increase profits. Collaboration also will help to increase trade by, for example, identifying additional markets where to sell their products. ASEAN will also look at problems of international commodity trade. A commodity is a primary product that is either harvested, (such as wheat or corn) or mined (such as gold or silver). Bread from wheat or a ring from gold would be a secondary product. Additionally, improving the logistics involved in moving primary and secondary products from their source to their end users as well as improving communication in member states will also help to raise the living standards of their people.
  6. ASEAN will help to promote South-East Asian studies. Many in Southeast Asia are unaware of their history unless they lived through it. In the USA or Europe, most people can tell you the date their country became a nation. Not in Thailand. However, I'm not sure if this is the case across ASEAN. Those that don’t know their own history are doomed to repeat it. (Edmund Burke)
  7. ASEAN still wanted to work with existing regional and international organizations which also had similar aims and purposes and explore all avenues for even closer cooperation with them. For example, the United Nations, World Trade Organization, or even the European Union all has similar aims and purposes.
The third point said in order to carry out the second point of aims and purposes, the following machinery shall be established:

  • There will be an annual meeting of Foreign Ministers referred to as the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting. This became known as the ASEAN Summit which is held by heads of the ASEAN states.
  • There will be a standing committee to carry on the work of ASEAN in between the ASEAN Ministerial Meetings of the foreign ministers. The standing committee will be under the chairmanship of the Foreign Minister who is the host of the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting.
  • ASEAN will establish Ad-Hoc Committees (as needed) as well as Permanent Committees and officials on specific subjects (such as tourism).
  • Each ASEAN country will have a National Secretariat to carry out ASEAN duties and responsibilities inside the ASEAN country the National Secretariat represents. The National Secretariat will be responsible for attending all the Annual or Special Meetings of Foreign Ministers, the Standing Committees and any other committees that are hereafter established.
The fourth point made it possible for other countries in Southeast Asia to join ASEAN. Later Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam joined ASEAN. Timor-Leste is under consideration now to join ASEAN.

The fifth point said ASEAN represents the collective will of the nations of South-East Asia to bind themselves together in friendship and cooperation and, through joint efforts and sacrifices, secure for their peoples and for posterity (future generations), the blessings of peace, freedom and prosperity.

After this, the document was dated and signed by Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore and thus ASEAN was born.

It’s been almost 47 years since ASEAN was created and much has happened in between then and now. While the time that’s past might seem long, this is still only the beginning. The next 50 to 100 years can possibly see amazing changes in ASEAN as the integration of the region becomes a reality and the dreams of the ASEAN forefathers are realized.

As I was once two years old at the beginning of ASEAN, my ASEAN son will also be two years old at the beginning of the integration of ASEAN in 2015. I can only imagine the future that awaits him and the opportunities he will have because of the ASEAN Declaration. There will always be struggles but the future looks bright as ASEAN brings the hope of a new world in Southeast Asia.


Authors Note: Most of this information is from the ASEAN Declaration which can easily be found on the ASEAN website (www.asean.org). Information on the UN can be found on the UN website. Historical perspective at the time of signing can be found on Wikipedia, the CIA Factbook and multitude of other websites from around the world. Questions concerning this article can be emailed to Mark Hefner at richard10365@gmail.com.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The AEC is not ASEAN: The AEC is One-Third of ASEAN

When people think of ASEAN, they automatically think of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). Most people think ASEAN is the AEC and the AEC is ASEAN. Most seem to ignore the fact that ASEAN is not only made up of the AEC but also the ASEAN Political Security Community (APSC) and the ASEAN Social Cultural Community (ASCC). The AEC does not exist without the APSC and the ASCC.

Most of the issues that most writers criticize the AEC for are not even part of the goals of the 2015 AEC. They might, however, fall under the APSC or the ASCC and are being addressed by ASEAN as we speak. In fact, most writers don’t realize that we are moving towards the ASEAN community in 2015 which includes the AEC, ASPC, and the ASCC.

Here’s a small history lesson:

August 8th, 1967 (46 years ago), in Bangkok, Thailand, 5 nations; Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, and Singapore, joined together and signed the Bangkok Declaration that started ASEAN.
16 years ago, in December 1997, the ASEAN Vision 2020 was conceived in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This was the predecessor to the current process most people today refer to as the AEC.
By 1999, five other nations joined ASEAN which brought the total to 10 nations that currently represent ASEAN.

In 2003, 10 years ago, the Declaration of the ASEAN Community, also known as the ASEAN Concord II was established and laid the foundation for the 3 communities of ASEAN. Between 2003 and 2006, the blueprints for the 3 ASEAN communities mapped out a path for ASEAN to reach its ASEAN Vision 2020 goal.

In 2007, ASEAN decided to accelerate the ASEAN Vision 2020 to 2015.

In 2008, 5 years ago, The ASEAN Political Security Community, the Economic Community, and the Social Cultural Community initiated the paths in blueprints that 10 nations have been working on and expect to complete December 31st, 2015. 

Each year since 2008 Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound goals have been laid out, pursued, and for the most part, accomplished. 2015 is the ASEAN integration finish line that will have taken almost 50 years to complete. 

If you would like to know exactly what is happening in ASEAN please look at the ASEAN website at www.asean.org. Everything is there in English for the world to read. 

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The ASEAN Declaration (In my own words) Part 2

Part 2 of The ASEAN Declaration looks at the what was actually declared on August 8th, 1967 with the very first point being...."ASEAN is established."

Point number 2 was a bit more detailed with 7 different aims and purposes of ASEAN.

  1. ASEAN wanted what every country wants which is to peacefully accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development. However, different from just one country, they wanted to start this with the combined efforts of the original 5 countries which are Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, and Singapore also know as TI-PMS. Remember, at the time, peace was a concept that seemed foreign to this part of the world. 
  2. Peace was so important, it is mentioned again but this time in the framework of the already established United Nations Charter. Respect for justice and the rule of law between the ASEAN founding fathers seemed like the only way to promote regional peace and stability. This definitely falls under more of an aim than a purpose. However, whoever had the power, made the laws and this was extremely evident over the following years in the Philippines with the 21 year reign of Ferdinand Marcos.
  3. Promoting collaboration and mutual assistance in the economic, social, cultural, technical, scientific and administrative fields opened the doors for all the progress that was made at the summits after this event. I think these were long range plans they wanted to tackle in the long run. Seems like the first 10 years they spent learning to trust each other.
  4. Promises to help each other in the form of training and research facilities in education, professional, technical and admin areas. At this point in time, these areas seem like seeds for the Asean University Network (www.aunsec.org) as well as some of the current agreements they have in trade in services. 
  5. To work together better to get more output of their agriculture and industries (zero tariffs), expansion of trade, reduce barriers to trade and improve infrastructure in order to move products from one country to the next.
  6. To promote South-East Asian studies is a good one because I think most Thai people don't have a clue about their history unless they lived through it. In the USA or Europe, most people can tell you the date their country became a nation. Not in Thailand. However, I'm not sure if this is the case across ASEAN. 
  7. This had to do with  create agreements with other countries like the did with ASEAN+3 and ASEAN+6. 
The third point laid out a schedule of when meetings would happen and who would chair it. It also laid out the reason to create teams of people working on similar projects such as agriculture or tourism. 

The fourth point made it possible for other countries in Southeast Asia to join ASEAN. Later Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam joined ASEAN.

The fifth point said we are making this agreement because we want this and we will make this happen for the good of everyone in ASEAN.

After this, the document was dated  and signed by TI-PMS and ASEAN was born. 

Thanks for reading

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The ASEAN Declaration (In my own words) Part 1

ASEAN Logo
Every organization has a beginning and ASEAN is no different. The ASEAN Declaration was more or less, ASEAN's "Declaration of Independence". It said we are ASEAN and we are not alone. This is my attempt to paraphrase the ASEAN Declaration and add a bit of commentary as well. The ASEAN Declaration is also known as the Bangkok Declaration because Bangkok, Thailand, is where it was signed by it's founders. 

ASEAN, which stands for the Association of South East Asian Nation, was formed August 8th, 1967 in Bangkok Thailand.  

ASEAN founders, considering their Southeast Asian similarities and common problems, felt the need to strengthen their existing bonds of regional solidarity and cooperation. Regionally, this was definitively needed. Indochina was a mess as the United States and her allies were trying to eliminate the communist from Vietnam. The Vietnam War was impacting much of mainland Southeast Asia to include Cambodia, Laos and parts of Thailand. 

Mistrust was in other places in ASEAN as well. For example, east of Indochina, the Philippines seem to be prospering under the highly controversial Ferdinand Marcos who was just starting out his 21 year reign as their president. The Marcos reign was filled with corruption, nepotism, despotism, political repression and human rights violations (Thanks Wiki). A bit southwest of the Philippines, Indonesia was recovering from a communist purge that took at least 500,000 lives following a failed coup by the 30 September Movement. Malaysia also was struggling with issues that would eventually turn into race riots in 1969 prior to the country prospering. Singapore also was struggling during this time period. At one point, Singapore was part of Malaysia and another point, expelled from Malaysia. Race riots also plagued this tiny island nation. On top of all of these problems in Southeast Asia, influences, such as the USA and China, were trying to pull the local Southeast Asian government's policies in various different directions. 

ASEAN would need to create an environment with which ASEAN members could respond to issues impacting the region. While they dreamed about it in 1967, it finally became reality with the Declaration of ASEAN Concord II on October 7th, 2003. The ASEAN Political Security Community (APSC), The ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) and the ASEAN Social Cultural Community (ASCC) were conceptualized and agreed upon by all 10 ASEAN nations (Source). Up to this point, there was working going on dealing with issues specific to the 3 communities, but it wasn't grouped under the community system as it does in the APSC, AEC and ASCC. This gave structure to ASEAN.  

However, it's one thing to agree and it's another thing to do what you are agreeing to. So in 2007 and 2008, ASEAN Blueprints for the APSC, AEC, and the ASCC were released which listed the specific objectives ASEAN wants to achieve in it's integration process. Each blue print can be found on the ASEAN website under their respective community; however, to save time looking for it, you can link to it here: APSC, AEC, ASCC. I'll go more into detail on each community later.

ASEAN realized their cherished ideals of peace, freedom, social justice and economic well-being are best obtained by creating an atmosphere of understanding, good neighborliness and meaningful cooperation among the countries that are already bound together by history and similar culture.  They understood that each country share in the responsibility to strengthen the economic and social stability of the region to ensure peace and their own national development. In addition, ASEAN member states will be on guard to protect the region from any form of external influences that threaten the stability and security in order to preserve their national identities in accordance with the ideals and aspiration of their peoples. (Ok, this part I more or less copied from the ASEAN declaration)

Anyway, that ends Part 1 of the ASEAN Declaration. In part 2 I will look at their "declarations!"

To get a heads up on the declarations, feel free to read the ASEAN Declaration for yourself from the ASEAN website here

Thanks for reading.
Mark




Thursday, April 24, 2014

Introduction

Greetings from Chiang Mai, Thailand. My name is Mark Hefner and I'm studying business at Payap University International College.

Before I came to Payap or Thailand for that matter, I was a soldier in the USA. After 20 years of doing this, I retired, decided to change my life and felt like Thailand was the place to do that. Eventually, I ended up at Payap University and studied International Business Management (IBM) and an MBA. While the IBM degree is complete, the MBA has about 6 months left. 

Somewhere in the midst of my studies, I stumbled across the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). Since then I've slowly educated myself on the integration process that is happening now. 

I'm constantly amazed by the stories I'm reading across ASEAN from various so called experts when they comment about ASEAN. These experts have convinced me that there is lot of confusion about the ASEAN integration process. Often, the entire integration process is called the AEC 2015 when in reality, the AEC 2015 is only 1/3 of what is happening. 

I'll eventually explain all of this but first want to talk about where I get my information. The ASEAN website at www.asean.org is a very well organized and informative website. Everything that is happening right now and connected to the integration process, can be sourced from this website. 

However, the biggest problem for this region is the ASEAN website is 100% completely in English. All the documents that ASEAN creates are completely in English. For some countries like the Philippines, this is not a problem. For countries like Thailand, it's a huge problem. 

Thai people are some of the worst English speakers in the world. According to Education First (EF) English Proficiency Index (here), Thailand Ranks 55 out of 60 in it's ability of its citizens to speak English. That a 1 being the best and 60 having poor English abilities. Of the other ASEAN countries tested, Malaysia was 11, Singapore 12, Indonesia 25, and Vietnam 28. The rest of the ASEAN countries were not invited to participate in this survey.

This means decision makers, academics, leaders and students are waiting to be told about their country's ASEAN obligation by their government rather than go to the source and read the agreements themselves. 

Instead of being proactive, Thailand will end up being reactive to increased ASEAN competition by the other well read ASEAN countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam. Academics as well as people who's job it is to know are just getting it wrong. They are speculating on what they think is happening in ASEAN without knowing what is suppose to happen. In all fairness to Thailand, this is happening across ASEAN. 

Thus the reason for my blog. I could not take it anymore. It's time to embrace technology and share what I've found out about ASEAN and how it matters to 600 million people. I won't write a history lesson of Southeast Asia but I will go back in time a little for comparisons and introduction to ASEAN topics. 

If you have any questions please feel free to ask. My email is richard10365@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading.

Mark