ASEAN: Navigating Challenges and Opportunities

SINGAPORE – The ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), a vision of regional economic integration, has embarked on a transformative journey. In their latest book, “Reimagining the ASEAN Economic Community” (Trends in Southeast Asia 2024 No. 7), authors Julia Tijaja, Simon Tay, and Sanchita Basu delve into the complexities of this endeavor. Published by the ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore, the book provides critical insights into the AEC’s evolution and future prospects.

AEC Building: A Long Journey

The AEC’s journey is akin to a marathon, not a sprint. It must adapt to evolving contexts and seize emerging opportunities while addressing challenges head-on to remain relevant and impactful. The authors emphasize the need for dynamism in AEC policies and strategies.

Progress and Gaps

Under the two AEC Blueprints (2015 and 2025), significant progress has been made. Frameworks for regional economic integration and community building have been laid down. However, gaps persist in implementation. The call is for a streamlined, result-oriented agenda and stronger institutional coordination.

The Changing Landscape

Today, the AEC faces a markedly different context. A poly-crisis—comprising geo-economic fragmentation, supply chain restructuring, and climatic shifts—poses unprecedented challenges. The traditional pillar and sector-centric approach may fall short of effectively addressing these multifaceted issues.

Recalibrating Priorities

As AEC 2025 enters its final quarter, recalibration is essential. A whole-of-community approach to integration becomes paramount. Solutions span multiple sectors, necessitating collaborative efforts. Ambition and pragmatism must strike a delicate balance, and institutions and processes should underpin substantive progress.

In summary, “Reimagining the ASEAN Economic Community” serves as a compass for policymakers, scholars, and practitioners navigating the AEC’s intricate landscape. It invites us to envision a dynamic, resilient, and integrated ASEAN—one that thrives amidst challenges and propels the region toward a prosperous future.