Academic journal article Researchers World

Making of the Asean Community: Economic Integration and Its Impact on Workers in Southeast Asia

Academic journal article Researchers World

Making of the Asean Community: Economic Integration and Its Impact on Workers in Southeast Asia

Article excerpt


This paper examined the ASEAN integration and its impacts on the workers in the region. It used the theories of economic integration to explain how the economic integration would effect the employment situations and working conditions of the workers in the ASEAN countries. It is interesting to note that it took more than 40 years to create the Free Trade Area (FTA) in the region after the establishment of ASEAN in 1967. Moreover, it is very well-known fact that the AFTA still have not adopted the Common External Tariff (CET). The free movement of goods and services under the FTA tends to have least direct effects on the workers in the FTA member countries. Furthermore, in 2003, ASEAN leaders agree to establish the ASEAN Community by 2020. However, ASEAN leader carefully excluded the free movement of labour under this "incomplete" Common Market named ASEAN Community. In short, these facts seem to indicate that ASEAN integration would have some indirect impacts on the employment situations and working conditions through foreign direct investment or international trade. However, ASEAN integration, so far, would have minimum direct impact on workers in ASEAN countries because the free movement of workers was carefully excluded from discussion and negotiation of making ASEAN Community.

Keywords: Economic integration, workers, ASEAN Community


It is well-known fact that the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) is one of the most successful and most ambitious economic integration in the world. The association was established on August 8, 1967 at the capital of Thailand with signing of the ASEAN Declaration, or so-called the "Bangkok Declaration" (ASEAN, 2011a).1

The ASEAN consists of the following ten member countries, 1)Brunei, 2)Cambodia, 3)Indonesia, 4)Laos, 5)Malaysia, 6)Myanmar, 7)the Philippines, 8)Singapore, 9)Thailand and 10)Vietnam. The original member countries of the ASEAN are Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Brunei became member state in 1984 while Vietnam joined ASEAN in 1995. Two more countries, Laos and Myanmar became the ASEAN member countries in 1997. Finally, Cambodia joined the ASEAN in 1999 (ASEAN, 2011a).2

According to the Bangkok Declaration, there are seven main aims and purpose of the ASEAN. First of all, ASEAN aims to promote economic, social and cultural development in the region. Secondly, ASEAN aims to promote regional peace and stability. Thirdly, ASEAN aims to promote active regional collaboration. Fourthly, ASEAN aims to provide assistance to each other. Fifthly, ASEAN aims to collaborate more effectively for the utilization of resource and expansion of international trade, Sixthly, ASEAN aim to promote the Southeast Asian Studies. Finally, ASEAN aims to maintain closer relationship with other international organizations (ASEAN, 2011a).

On February 24, 1976, the leaders of original five ASEAN countries, namely, 1)Lee Kuan Yew, 2)Ferdinand Marcos, 3)Hussein Onn, 4)Kukrit Pramoj, 5)Suharto signed an important document called the "Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia" (TAC) at Denpasar, Bali. This treaty became a underlying foundation of unique characteristics of ASEAN, or so-called the "ASEAN Way" (ASEAN, 2011b).

According to the treaty, there are six fundamental principle of ASEAN. The first principle is the "mutual respect". The second principle is the "freedom from external interference". The third principle is the "noninterference in international affairs of other member countries". The fourth principle is the "peaceful settlement of dispute". The fifth principle is the "renunciation of use of arms". Finally, the sixth principle is the "effective collaboration" (ASEAN, 2011b).

It is very interesting to note that there is huge discrepancy among ASEAN member countries in terms of their population, total area and income. First of all, in term of population, the largest country in ASEAN is Indonesia with population of 231 million. …

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