INTRODUCTION

The National University of Malaysia (UKM), the University of Oxford and World Trade Institute (WTI) are convening the ASEAN ECONOMIC INTEGRATION FORUM 2017 (AEIF2017) at United Nations Convention Centre (UNCC), Bangkok on the 14th to 15th September 2017. The theme of the forum is “50 Years and Beyond: Forging an Inclusive ASEAN”. The conveners are organizing the forum in collaboration with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), the International Institute for Trade and Development (ITD), ASEAN University Network (AUN) and Asia-Pacific Research and Training Network on Trade (ARTNeT). The third installation of the forum is a follow-up to the ones successfully in Oxford in 2015 and Kuala Lumpur in 2016.

BACKGROUND

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is 50 years old this year. That is a milestone for a loosely constructed regional organization, which five countries created at the height of the Cold War, to have come this far. Since then, its member countries have transformed ASEAN into a rule-based entity encompassing almost all the countries in Southeast Asia.

Now, ASEAN is both the world’s seventh-largest market and third-largest labor force, and has been projected to become the fourth-largest economic bloc by 2030. Additionally, the group has established the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) at the end of 2015 to create a single market and production base – facilitating even closer economic, political, social, and cultural cooperation.

Establishing the AEC, however, poses several challenges. Firstly, while there has been more rapid economic growth in the Southeast Asian region, there is also an increase in economic disparities – both across and within countries. Secondly, the increased connectivity also highlights the need for effective multi-level governance and management of domestic politics and needs, which could have regional implications. Thirdly, ASEAN needs to incorporate the people’s aspirations and input in developing AEC so as to achieve inclusive economic growth. These conditions bring about three important questions. First, are there development options and strategies that can generate similar levels of economic growth without such large increases in inequity? Second, what are the required policy mechanisms or responses to this observed inequity that will reduce its impact or costs for certain groups? Third, how do you promote equitable and inclusive growth for ASEAN to remain relevant for the next 50 years?

OBJECTIVES

This forum strives to achieve the following objectives,

  • To identify and propose ways to bridge development gaps in the ASEAN region
  • To contribute to policy making that looks at inclusive and bottom-up development within the region
  • To promote meaningful discourse on AEC that goes beyond economic imperatives
  • To highlight the importance of social forces in promoting ASEAN community
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