CARI Conversation I – What Does It Take To Create A Community? Part 1

01 June 2011 | Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

CARI Conversation 1


CIMB ASEAN Research Institute (CARI) had on 1 June 2011 launched its first of many CARI Conversations – a series of dialogues between opinion makers, policymakers, government and business leaders. The initial topic of discussion was, “What does it take to create a Community?”

This series offers a highly focused forum for dialogue on ASEAN’s economic community-building efforts.

The panelists included: Datuk Dr. Rebecca Fatima Sta Maria, Secretary General, Ministry of International Trade and Industry, Malaysia; Dr. Donald Emmerson, Director, Southeast Asia Forum, Stanford University; Ambassador Ong Keng Yong, Director, Institute for Policy Studies, National University of Singapore; and Dr. Anthony Milner, Professor of Asian History, Australian National University.

The dialogue noted that ASEAN was at the halfway mark of its programme to build an economic community by 2015. The dialogue assessed the progress made to date, challenges encountered, and ways to bridge the gap between conception and execution of the ASEAN secretariat’s plans.

Datuk Dr. Rebecca acknowledged the perception that ASEAN was not moving fast enough. She described vigorous efforts underway at the official level and outlined the ASEAN Scorecard which measures how each country was complying with the AEC Blueprint. Datuk Rebecca said “there is political will to see this through; it now needs to be translated into actions that are measurable, and that’s what we need to do with the Scorecard.”

Dr. Anthony Milner said, “Somehow you’ve got a blockage here. How do you reach out to the business community… the answer goes beyond economics”. In that context he discussed history of the notion of sovereignty in Southeast Asia, noted how recent it was, and called for a recovery of our shared identity.

In that respect, Ong agreed with Milner, Asean’s saying, “While the issue at hand is an economic community, the solution involves more than economics. We also need to address cultural identities.”

Emmerson suggested that the solution relied on creative ambiguity in defining community, as well as a willingness to realise that a perfect community is an ideal. He said, “It is an endless process, and we can only work towards making significant progress”. Emmerson questioned why there were not some quick wins such as a single SIM-card use-able across ASEAN.

The discussion ended with a promise for future dialogues, as CARI continues to engage and place more focus on the private sector’s participation in building an ASEAN economic community.