Last night I spoke at the National University of Singapore Students’ Political Association 2012 forum on the ASEAN Economic Community, along with former ASEAN Secretary General Rodolfo Severino and Sulaimah Mahmood from the Singapore Ministry of Trade and Industry. Over 250 university and junior college (high school) students attended, which is quite good and reflects on the excellent organization skills of the association!
My presentation riffed on my comparison of ASEAN to the English Premier League. I did add that not all sports leagues have weak central offices; notably, the American professional leagues have strong central offices that can impose penalties on both players and teams, and the players and teams have access to binding arbitration and judicial systems. However, the American leagues also have had 3 strikes over the past 7 years whereas the EPL rarely has labor problems and is also financially successful. The point is that even without strong central leadership, entities such as ASEAN or the EPL can succeed, but that decisionmaking can be slow. The key is in providing good conditions for competition, which will attract both “players” and “fans” (e.g., investors and customers).
Here are some more updates on AEC developments:
- ASEAN Secretary-General – multiple sources indicate that Vietnam has identified its proposed candidate to replace ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan at the end of 2012. The vetting process is now being conducted by the ASEAN member states on a confidential basis.
- Chiang Mai Initiative - The ASEAN+3 Macroeconomic Research Office (AMRO) officially opened in Singapore as an independent macroeconomic surveillance unit of the Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralization Agreement. The Chiang Mai Initiative is a currency swap agreement among the finance ministries and central banks of ASEAN, China, Japan and Korea. AMRO will conduct financial surveillance in ASEAN+3 and provide informational support to the ASEAN+3 central banks and finance ministries. The AMRO head suggested doubling the size of the swap arrangement to at least US$ 240 billion.
- ASEAN Single Window – Laos announced a road map to implement its national single window. The effort is funded by the USAID.
- ASEAN-EU – the first meetings of the EU’s program to support ASEAN capabilities to negotiate free trade agreements (FTAs) with the EU were held in Cambodia. ASEAN-EU FTA talks had stalled a few years ago due to Myanmar sanctions and perceived deficiencies in ASEAN’s negotiating infrastructure.
- Myanmar – Singapore and Myanmar signed a memorandum of understanding for Singapore to provide technical support. Meanwhile, the EU lifted some Burma sanctions, ending visa bans on Myanmar regime officials and allowing some development aid. The EU and US are waiting for the results of the April by-elections before further lifting sanctions.