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A Private-Sector Led Asean

By: Cielito F. Habito, PhD
Last Sunday, in a large gathering held in Davao City, the Philippines launched its hosting and chairmanship of the Association of South East Asian Nations or Asean for 2017, a milestone year as it marks the 50th year of the regional bloc. With its 10 member-states, Asean had a combined GDP in 2015 that amounted to more than US$2.8 trillion, with a combined market base of around 630 million consumers. Taken as one economy, it would rank the sixth largest in the world behind the United States, China, Japan, Germany and the United Kingdom.
This market clout that makes the region an economic powerhouse has been a prime incentive for Asean’s 10 member-states to band together into the Asean Economic Community. Getting there entailed various policy reforms to permit the free flow of goods, services, skilled labor, and capital across the region. Many of these reforms have not been easy for governments to undertake, as nationalistic sentiments tend to run at odds with the regionalism that Asean and similar other regional blocs elsewhere foster. Nonetheless, and as is often the case, the private sector has moved faster than governments insofar as treating Asean as a common market and production base; all it needed was for the latter to open the door.
Proactive firms in countries around the region have moved Asean economic integration forward much faster than their governments can, via strategic cross-border investments and partnerships. These ventures have established national and regional networks, leveraging on global and regional value chains that have come about in the past two decades at the heels of freer trade across national borders worldwide. The manufacture of various consumer products has seen the proliferation of such cross-border value chains, with multiple countries now typically contributing to the production of specific products. The tag “Made in (a specific country)” is no longer appropriate in this context, where “Made in Asean” or “Made in the World” may more aptly reflect the nature of most products we know, ranging from aircraft all the way down to the food we eat.
Read the full article at http://opinion.inquirer.net/100981/private-sector-led-asean