The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is comprised of 10 nations in Southeast Asia: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Laos), Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Its members’ combined GDP has been growing at a rate of around 6 percent annually over the past decade. In 2014, the ASEAN economy was the third largest in Asia and seventh largest in the world.

On 31 December 2015, the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) was launched, creating a single market with the objective of easier movement of goods, services, capital, investment and workforce across the region. This development will attract more investors in the AEC, taking advantage of incentives available within the region and its neighbours, specifically China with which ASEAN concluded an upgraded China-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) in November 2015. The CAFTA is expected to double bilateral trade between China and AEC (up to US$1 trillion) and raise AEC-bound foreign direct investments to some US$150bn by 2020. With China’s Belt and Road Initiative, major improvements in AEC’s infrastructure are expected as AEC is posed to be a crucial trade route in the proposed China-Indochina Peninsula Economic Corridor and maritime route linking China to Europe.

Jul-Sep 2016 issue