ASEAN Told to Re-Think Strategies; Export Say Block Needs to Review Economic Models

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Byline: CECIL MORELLA

CEBU, Dec. 9 (AFP) -- China has now outstripped ASEAN's top economies in exports and the bloc needs to re-think its economic model or risk being marginalized, experts and industry leaders said here Friday.

While the planned creation of a regional single market would help, the 10-country group faces obstacles including a traditional unwillingness to be seen interfering in each other's affairs, they said.

The warnings came ahead of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) annual summit next week, where the bloc is set to move its target date for a single market to 2015, five years earlier than planned.

Experts said the 10-nation group had to act decisively to avoid falling behind India, which is increasingly challenging China as the other regional economic powerhouse.

"India over the next several years has the ability to replace ASEAN as number two" behind China in terms of high-value output, said Scott Price, Asia-Pacific chief executive for express delivery firm DHL.

As part of a regional business forum on the sidelines of the summit, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) think-tank released a report showing that Chinese exports had overtaken those of the seven leading ASEAN economies.

"Given the importance of exports to ASEAN, the challenge for member governments is to work out how to sustain and grow their export industries in the face of this rising competition," it said.

China in 2004 overtook Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Vietnam and Myanmar, the so-called ASEAN-7, in the total value of all exports, the EIU study said.

It also outstripped the group over the past five years in annual export growth -- 25 percent compared to eight percent -- and outpaced the ASEAN-7 in high-value exports starting in 2003.

The situation "carries a risk that Southeast Asia will be marginalized," said Graeme Maxton, a senior EIU official. …