ASEAN@UKM – UKM Pioneers New Frontiers for Greater ASEAN Economic Integration

As part of Malaysia’s contribution to deepening ASEAN integration, the Institute of Malaysian and International Studies (IKMAS) forged a new tripartite collaboration between UKM, Oxford University and the World Trade Institute (WTI, Bern) on 9th November 2015. The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Datuk Dr. Noor Azlan Ghazali, led the UKM delegation comprising the Director of IKMAS, Professor Dr. Rashila Ramli, and Senior Fellow, Associate Professor Dr. Sufian Jusoh, to Oxford. Aligned to the lofty aspirations of the ASEAN Economic Community – one of the three elements of the ASEAN Community that was formally launched on the 22nd November 2015 in Kuala Lumpur – this partnership aspires to contribute to the stock of knowledge and growing research on ASEAN economic integration. The alliance aims to bring together the best brains in the three partnering institutions to power research and disseminate new research findings on deepening economic integration in the region.

Professor Datuk Dr. Noor Azlan Ghazali gave an arousing keynote address at the two-day Forum on ASEAN Economic Integration (9-10 November 2015). In his speech he highlighted succinctly the status and challenges confronting economic integration in the region. The forum also provided a platform for other notable speakers who came from far and near, (even as far as Australia). These speakers, representing a variety of disciplines such as law, economics and political science, shared their research findings on three key dimensions of ASEAN economic integration: institutional architecture, the promises and limits of multi-speed integration and a critical evaluation of ASEAN’s achievements against its lofty yet worthy goals.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” so said Laozi, an ancient Chinese philosopher. Resonating much with this thinking, the Forum agreed that ASEAN economic integration is very much a work-in-progress and that the 2015 declaration should be viewed as a key milestone in the integration process. And with this single step, ASEAN’s integration will continue to inch forward post 2015, comforted in the assurance that the much criticised ‘ASEAN way’ provides a cushion against disintegration within ASEAN.

Tunku Zain Al-‘Abidin, in his lunchtime talk, provided a different perspective from that of the researchers and academics when he highlighted the role of civil society in regional integration. The last session on diplomatic and business perspectives offered the audience refreshing views on advancing the ASEAN agenda.

In the closing speech, the co-organizers of the event – Pierre Sauve, Director of External Programs and Academic Partnerships from WTI, Dr. Matthew J. Walton, Aung San Suu Kyi Senior Research Fellow in modern Burmese Studies, St. Anthony’s College, University of Oxford, and Associate Professor Dr. Sufian Jusoh, Senior Fellow, Institute of Malaysian and International Studies, UKM – affirmed the tripartite collaboration. After the 2015 inaugural ASEAN Economic Integration Forum in Oxford, the three institutional partners will rotate the subsequent hosting of the forum. IKMAS, UKM will host it in 2016 while WTI will do so in 2017.

As Francis Drake once said: “There must be a beginning of every matter, but the continuing unto the end yields the true glory.” So keep a look out for more updates on this tripartite collaboration in 2016!

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