8 September 2013
ASEAN's appetite for pursuing a variety of regional or bilateral free trade agreements continues unabated. Negotiations on the ASEAN Economic Community 2015 continue to move forward, as does work on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which brings together ASEAN with China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia, and New Zealand. Several ASEAN members have joined, or are considering joining, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and most ASEAN members have one or more bilateral FTAs in place. Thailand, for example, is in the process of negotiating an FTA with the EU.
Of course, legitimate questions can be raised over the extent to which these agreements will actually produce anything approaching true free trade. ASEAN's preference for voluntary compliance and less-than-stringent monitoring and enforcement – to say nothing of the wide discrepancies in development levels amongst ASEAN members -- means that a variety of barriers and restrictions are likely to remain in place. Realistically speaking, one should not expect to see an actual "economic community" in ASEAN any time in the foreseeable future.