- ASEAN in 2010
As usual, 2010 was an extremely busy year for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Not only was this busyness reflected in the usual flurry of communiqués, declarations, and statements emanating from the numerous summit meetings and ministerial gatherings throughout the year. It was also manifested in the innumerable meetings and cooperative activities among hundreds of officials, working groups, task forces, and non-state groups on a dizzying variety of subjects. These subjects ranged from political and security issues (“traditional” and “non-traditional”) and measures for regional economic integration to the environment, energy and climate change, drug- and people-trafficking, education and health.
They took place in a variety of ASEAN-centred and ASEAN-initiated frameworks and forums. These frameworks and forums included the ten-member ASEAN itself, ASEAN’s cooperation with its ten Dialogue Partners (Australia, Canada, China, the European Union, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Russia, and the United States), the twenty-seven-state ASEAN Regional Forum, and ASEAN Plus Three (China, Japan, and South Korea), together and one at a time. The meetings and other activities also took place in the five-year-old East Asia Summit, again collectively and individually, now including Russia and the United States, as well as the ten ASEAN countries, the three Northeast Asian states, Australia, India, and New Zealand. Some of them produced practical agreements and decisions to take collective action. All served to build mutual understanding and confidence and, at the very least, promoted valuable contacts, networking, and even personal friendships.
However, 2010 was also unprecedented in ASEAN’s history. It was the first time that the period of the ASEAN chairmanship coincided with the calendar year. This was as prescribed in the new ASEAN Charter, which had gone into effect in December 2008. Thus, ASEAN operated under Vietnam’s chairmanship [End Page 26] in all of 2010, following Thailand’s unique eighteen-month chairmanship during the transition period under the new Charter. In an early technical departure from the provisions of the Charter, 2010 also saw ASEAN’s approval for Indonesia and Brunei Darussalam to swap their turns at the chairmanship, so that Indonesia would be sitting in the ASEAN chair in 2011 and Brunei Darussalam in 2013, with Cambodia scheduled to keep the seat in 2012. This was yet another manifestation of ASEAN’s pragmatism and flexibility, even in the interpretation of its new Charter.
Pursuant to the Charter, Vietnam presided over two ASEAN summits in 2010. The first one, in early April, was devoted mainly to strengthening ASEAN’s political cohesion, economic integration, and regional cooperation, with connectivity as its theme. The second one, in late October, involved ASEAN’s external partners, including this time the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon.
An ASEAN Economic Community by 2015?
During the year, ASEAN took several measures to push for the achievement of an ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by 2015. The ASEAN Economic Ministers adopted a “scorecard” to keep track of the implementation of the key elements in the AEC Blueprint issued in November 2007. A “sanitized” version of the scorecard is posted on the ASEAN Secretariat’s website. The published version largely focuses on intergovernmental agreements concluded, their ratification, work plans adopted, studies undertaken, committees formed, and other government actions. What the public scorecard does not indicate is the effectiveness of the Blueprint’s implementation in terms of transaction costs reduced and prices lowered or in terms of doing business in ASEAN made easier and faster. A survey of firms and people doing business in ASEAN may be required for this. Nevertheless, discussion among ASEAN ministers and officials of items in the scorecard, even if behind closed doors, could presumably apply peer pressure on member states to comply with their commitments.
The “multilateralization” and expansion of the Chiang Mai Initiative took effect in 2010. The Chiang Mai Initiative, adopted by the ASEAN Plus Three Finance Ministers in May 2000, following the 1997–98 Asian financial crisis, had three components — a network of bilateral currency swap and repurchase agreements, an economic surveillance and peer review process, and training of officials in economic surveillance and analysis. The...