ASEAN leaders endorse proposal to study new ideas

The ASEAN heads of government participating in the World Economic Forum on ASEAN meeting in Phnom Penh in May have endorsed a proposal to study new ideas for the ASEAN organization.

The Forum’s ASEAN Regional Strategy Group (RSG) – consisting of 26 ASEAN chief executive officers, government ministers and academics – presented the plan to the President of the Philippines and the Prime Ministers of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. All four welcomed the proposal, and Rodrigo Roa Duterte, President of the Philippines and Chair of ASEAN in 2017, invited the RSG to present the study and the ideas proposed at the next ASEAN Heads of State meeting in Manila in November.

Nazir Razak, Chairman, CIMB Group in Malaysia, and Chair of the ASEAN RSG said “New challenges, especially the onset of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, suggest that regional integration in South-East Asia – and the implementation of the ASEAN Economic Community in particular – should be accelerated to boost economic resilience.”

Justin Wood, Head of Asia Pacific and Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum, added: “The study will be produced under the leadership of the World Economic Forum. The idea is to examine different regional integration models around the world, such as the EU, NAFTA, Mercosur, GCC and others, with a view to identifying novel ideas for the ASEAN regional grouping. The study will also examine closely how the technological disruptions of the Fourth Industrial Revolution change the imperatives for, and character of, regional cooperation.”

During the meeting in Phnom Penh, the RSG shared the results of a survey of 23,700 ASEAN young people between the ages of 18 and 22 for their views on ASEAN and their prospects. The survey was conducted online in partnership with Sea Group, a Singapore-based internet company, and included responses from six ASEAN countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam. Half of the 23,700 respondents had tertiary education, the other half were educated to high school level. Some 70% were male and 30% were female.

Among the key findings:

  • 69% expect to have a better life than their parents. (13% expect the opposite)
  • 90% are aware of the Association of South-East Nations (ASEAN) and understand its goals
  • 64% believe that being part of ASEAN will improve their career and job prospects (5% think being part of ASEAN will make their lives worse)

"The results suggest that now is the time for policy-makers to shift gear away from awareness and towards action,” said Razak. “It is time to go beyond awareness-building, towards accelerating integration.”