Over the past three decades, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has proved to be the most dynamic regional organisation in the developing world, with the growth rate twice as fast as the world economic growth. As a result, ASEAN has doubled its share in the world’s total GDP (ERIA 2012). At a broader view, East Asian economies, including ASEAN, have grown rapidly over the last four decades, driven mainly by the great expansion of trade and foreign direct investment (FDI). The development of international production and distribution networks in East Asia is one key factor promoting remarkable trade and investment expansion in the region. The other important factor behind this expansion is the trade and investment liberalisation of member countries under a common regional framework. From the early 1990s, the agenda of regional economic integration has become
the priority of ASEAN. As stipulated in the vision for 2020, the objective of ASEAN’s integration is “transforming ASEAN into a stable, prosperous, and highly competitive region with equitable economic development, and reduced poverty and socio-economic disparities” (Institute of Southeast Asian Studies 2009). With that objective, ASEAN’s integration includes not only trade but also deeper integration in intra-regional and socio-economic ties. ASEAN member countries agreed on the establishment of an ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015, which will help ASEAN become a single market and production base, competitive economic region, a region of equitable economic development and integration into the global economy. ASEAN’s economic integration is also characterised by its free trade agree-
ments (FTAs) with major partners, including Japan, South Korea, China, India, Australia and New Zealand, which have made ASEAN become the integration hub in East Asia. Recently, the launching of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement negotiation has further conﬁrmed ASEAN commitment in fully integrating into the global economy. This agreement, involving the participation of ASEAN members and its six FTA partners, will have a broader and deeper integration with signiﬁcant improvements over the existing ASEAN+1 FTAs.