Can Japan contribute to equitable development in ASEAN?

Author: Fumitaka Furuoka, University of Malaya

The establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in December 2015 was a notable milestone in the economic integration of Southeast Asia. However, despite the AEC’s ambitious vision, the on-the-ground reality of Southeast Asian regionalism continues to raise some concerns. One such concern is the vast income gap among the ASEAN member states, which might become an obstacle to developing a true sense of regional solidarity and unity.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe takes his position next to Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for a group photo with ASEAN leaders at the ASEAN–Japan Summit in Singapore, 14 November 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Edgar Su).

Per capita income in the region’s richest country, Singapore, is over six times higher than in the poorest, Myanmar. ASEAN member states regard the vast income gap as a ‘matter of urgency‘. To enable equitable development, the AEC requires that older ASEAN member assist newer members (known as the CLMV countries: Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam) in their efforts to enhance their economic capacity. Since 2000, when ASEAN leaders adopted the Initiative for ASEAN integration, the older six member have been supporting CLMV countries in five key areas: food and agriculture, international …continue reading