ASEAN to be like EU 'in 8 years'

By Le Tian (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-01-15 06:52

CEBU, The Philippines: Leaders of the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations agreed on Saturday to expedite their efforts to build an "ASEAN Community" by 2015.

The Declaration on the Acceleration of the Establishment of an ASEAN Community by 2015 at their summit in Cebu vowed to achieve a more integrated and prosperous South Asian region earlier than the original 2020 deadline covering almost 570 million people, that is, more than the population of Europe through economic, security and socio-cultural bonding.

The community is expected to be like the European Union.

The leaders committed themselves to accelerating the implementation of the ASEAN Community's program areas, measures, and principles with "appropriate flexibility".

They pledged to further expand their engagement with their dialogue partners Australia, China, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand and other nations that they believed would assist ASEAN to integrate its efforts to create an "ASEAN Community" by 2015.

The declaration said the community is "ASEAN's response to the increasing number of regional challenges" and "will reinforce ASEAN's centrality and role as the driving force in charting the evolving regional architecture".

"By 2015, there will be freer trade in goods, freer movement of labor and capital and free flow of services," Midardo Abad, of the ASEAN Secretariat, said.

The ASEAN leaders launched their vision of a three-pillared community, comprising security, socio-cultural and economic communities, at their 2003 summit in Bali.

Describing it as "a momentous undertaking" and "crowning achievement", the 10 ASEAN leaders formally approved the Cebu Declaration on the Blueprint of the ASEAN Charter framed by the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) in preparation for the final approval of the historic document at the 13th ASEAN Summit in Singapore in November this year.

Also, they reiterated the "conviction that an ASEAN Charter will serve as a firm foundation in achieving one ASEAN Community by providing an enhanced institutional framework as well as conferring a legal personality to ASEAN".

A high level task force will begin drafting the charter and place it for approval at the 13th ASEAN Summit.

An ASEAN Charter is expected to give the regional economic grouping a legal entity to deal with the immense opportunities and key challenges facing ASEAN's integration process, rapid globalization and the impact of new technologies.

It is intended to turn ASEAN into a EU-style legal entity with binding rules on its members and to counter criticism that the body is little more than a diplomatic "talking shop".

The leaders signed their first legally binding convention on the fight against terrorism at Cebu as part of their efforts to get tougher on terrorism. It will make it easier to track suspects and money across borders, share intelligence information and extradite suspects from one ASEAN country to another.

Also, the Southeast Asian governments finalized an accord that calls for the protection of millions of impoverished migrant workers in a region rife with labor right abuses.

(China Daily 01/15/2007 page6)

Top World News  
Today's Top News  
Most Commented/Read Stories in 48 Hours