Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Brexit and the false analogies with Asean

Reuben Wong, "Brexit and the false analogies with Asean," The Straits Times

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Asean is no European Union, and its go-slow approach to integration works well in the region

Governments, political-economic analysts and newspaper editorials all over the world reacted with alarm at the June 23 British referendum result for the United Kingdom to withdraw from the European Union.

In Asia, the vote to exit from the most integrated regional organisation in the world sparked comparisons with Asean, often touted as the most successful regional organisation in Asia and the developing world. Many warned that regional integration had gone too far in Europe. They noted that Asean should be careful with projects like the Asean Economic Community (which might aggravate economic inequalities) and the free movement of eight professions (which might raise fears of job losses). ...

If there is one lesson of Brexit for Asean, it is that Asean should not take the benefits of regional projects for granted.
Citizens, the media and governments need to know and be reminded that there are tangible benefits to belonging to a regional organisation. The benefits of projects like the Asean Economic Community may not be immediately apparent or evenly distributed to everyone in society (in fact, there might even be some "losers"). But to win public support over the long term, governments, Asean agencies and scholars need to engage in public diplomacy and debates to educate their populations and highlight both the attendant costs and benefits inherent in any regional initiative.

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