24 Nov 2015

WTI plays role in inaugural ASEAN Economic Integration Forum

The inaugural ASEAN Economic Integration Forum jointly organised by the Asian Studies Centre, St. Antony’s College; the World Trade Institute, University of Bern (WTI); and the Institute of Malaysian and International Studies, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (IKMAS) took place on 10 November at St Antony’s College, University of Oxford. This initiative, which focused on the state of play of ASEAN Economic Integration, is in line with a growing research interest in ASEAN.

The Forum was preceded by a public lecture by Professor Dr. Noor Azlan Ghazali, Vice Chancellor of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, entitled “ASEAN Economic Integration: Status and Challenges”. In his remarks, Professor Ghazali offered a broad overview of the status and challenges confronting economic integration in the region as it approaches the deadline for launching the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).

The forum brought together a number of ASEAN scholars from Oxford to Australia, and from a variety of disciplines such as law, economics, business and political science. The speakers shared their recent or ongoing research findings on three key dimensions of ASEAN economic integration: (i) the institutional architecture of ASEAN; (ii) the promises and limits of multispeed integration; and (iii) a critical evaluation of ASEAN’s achievements in terms of its stated goals, notably in regard to its AEC 2015 aims.

Participants and experts concurred that ASEAN economic integration remains very much a work-in-progress and that the 2015 AEC deadline should be viewed as a milestone in the integration process, and not an end in itself. ASEAN integration will continue to move forward beyond 2015, as the much criticised ‘ASEAN way’ nonetheless provides a cushion against disintegrating forces within the region. In his luncheon keynote address, Tunku Zain Al-Abidin highlighted the growing role and voice of civil society in the region, while the last session on diplomatic and business perspectives advanced a number of political economy views on the forces, both internal and external, shaping ASEAN’s continued engagement in the world.

In their closing remarks, the co-organisers – Pierre Sauvé, the WTI’s Director of External Programmes and Academic Partnerships; Dr. Matthew J. Walton, Aung San Suu Kyi Senior Research Fellow in Modern Burmese Studies at St. Anthony’s College, University of Oxford; and Associate Professor Dr. Sufian Jusoh, Senior Fellow, Institute of Malaysian and International Studies, UKM – confirmed the partners’ willingness to deepen their research ties on regional issues, promote continued scholarship in comparative regionalism, and consider rotating further editions of the ASEAN Economic Integration Forum with IKMAS at UKM taking the mantle in 2016 and the WTI in 2017.

Please stay tuned for more updates on this novel tripartite collaboration in the months to come!