ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
Formed in 1967, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, and Cambodia have all joined recently, creating a regional grouping of 500 million people with a combined GDP of some $740 billion (see Map 9.3). The basic objective of ASEAN is to foster freer trade among member countries and to achieve cooperation in their industrial policies. Progress so far has been limited, however.
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)
An attempt to establish a free trade area among Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
MAP 9.3 ASEAN Countries
Source: Reprinted with permission, www.asean.org.
Until recently, only 5 percent of intra-ASEAN trade consisted of goods whose tariffs had been reduced through an ASEAN preferential trade arrangement. This may be changing. In 2003, an ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) among the six original members of ASEAN came into full effect. The AFTA has cut tariffs on manufacturing and agricultural products to less than 5 percent. However, there are some significant exceptions to this tariff reduction. Malaysia, for example, refused to bring down tariffs on imported cars until 2005 and then agreed to lower the tariff only to 20 percent, not the 5 percent called for under the AFTA. Malaysia wanted to protect Proton, an inefficient local carmaker, from foreign competition. Similarly, the Philippines has refused to lower tariff rates on petrochemicals, and rice, the largest agricultural product in the region, will remain subject to higher tariff rates until at least 2020.36
Notwithstanding such issues, ASEAN and AFTA are at least progressing toward establishing a free trade zone. Vietnam joined the AFTA in 2006, Laos and Myanmar in 2008, and Cambodia in 2010. The goal was to reduce import tariffs among the six original members to zero by 2010 and to do so by 2015 for the newer members (although important exceptions to that goal, such as tariffs on rice, will persist).
ASEAN also recently signed a free trade agreement with China that removes tariffs on 90 percent of traded goods. This went into effect January 1, 2010. Trade between China and ASEAN members more than tripled during the first decade of the twenty-first century, and this agreement should spur further growth.37
ASIA-PACIFIC ECONOMIC COOPERATION
The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) was founded in 1990 at the suggestion of Australia. APEC currently has 21 member-states, including such economic powerhouses as the United States, Japan, and China (see Map 9.4). Collectively, the member-states account for about 55 percent of the world’s GNP, 49 percent of world trade, and much of the growth in the world economy. The stated aim of APEC is to increase multilateral cooperation in view of the economic rise of the Pacific nations and the growing interdependence within the region. U.S. support for APEC was also based on the belief that it might prove a viable strategy for heading off any moves to create Asian groupings from which it would be excluded.