CARI Conversation II – What Does It Take To Create A Community? Part 2

14 July 2011 – Jakarta, Indonesia

CARI Conversation 2


After the successful launch CARI Conversations – a series of dialogues between opinion makers, policymakers, government officials and business leaders on ASEAN’s economic community building efforts – CARI held the second Conversation in Jakarta on July 14th 2011.

Taking the advice of Ambassador Ong during the first Conversation, we continued to ask “What does it take to create a Community?” This time CARI Conversations featured an expert panel with Datuk Dr. Reza Y. Siregar, Basham Professor of Asian History, Australian National University, Australia; Mr. Iman Pambagyo, Director of ASEAN Cooperation, Ministry of Trade, Indonesia; Mr. Meidyatama Suryodiningrat, Editor in Chief of The Jakarta Post and Mr. Pushpanathan Sundram, Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN, the AEC, ASEAN Secretariat.

The dialogue noted the role of the private sector for real integration and the importance of regional integration for global competitiveness. Datuk Dr. Reza stressed that ASEAN can no longer be merely a policy nor a politically driven community but must now be primarily market driven. The private sector must be the driver and not the ASEAN Secretariat nor the central banks. He also compared ASEAN to other emerging economies and acknowledged that ASEAN loses out in competitiveness relative to India and China since they operate as single economies. Datuk Dr. Reza said that ASEAN has to regroup and work together; otherwise ASEAN countries are not going to be able to compete in their backyard yet alone globally.

Mr. Pushpanathan agreed with Dr. Reza saying that the lesson for ASEAN over the last 40 years is that ASEAN needs to come together to face global changes and challenges and stay relevant in a global context. He continued commented on how we can bring the ASEAN region closer together: “connectivity is going to be very important for ASEAN, how do we connect ourselves by road, by rail, by air, by marine time, at the same time looking at trade facilitation like customs, ASEAN single window, or harmonisation standards, simplification of standards, sanitary measures and so on. The institutional part is going to be very important, and of course the other part we can’t forget is people to people, because ASEAN community is about people, and here the people I’m talking about for the economic community are the businesses. They are going to be very important.”

Mr. Meidyatama suggested that the business community is already on its way towards ASEAN integration: “the business community has established an ASEAN community of sorts even without all these economic cooperation and economic agreements. Journalists have established their own community within the ASEAN parameters. Civil society organisations have established their own communities so this is sort of a side bar project, an unintentional product of ASEAN which was there, it was facilitated, it was never planned, it just happened by itself”.

Mr. Iman emphasised the governments need to make ASEAN relevant and credible by ensuring that ASEAN is good for businesses, and that the member governments deliver on their promises to prepare their economies for the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015.