ASEAN Communities and Russia-ASEAN Cooperation

The ASEAN Centre starts to publish the essays of the Essay Competition winners and shortlisted participants. The first in the series of these essays is written by Ms. Somphospheak Heng from Cambodia.

The year 2015, the 48th ASEAN Anniversary, is the materialization of greater regional integration as it marks the historic move of Southeast Asian transformation, the soon-to-be inception of ASEAN Community. At the same time, this year is also the nineteenth anniversary of the establishment of ASEAN-Russia Dialogue Partnership.

For the past two decades, various efforts – in terms of either politics and security, economics, and socio-culture – have been made in order to consolidate future cooperation between the two sides. The first ASEAN-Russia Summit in 2005 had shown us that it was in fact easier to enhance further a rather developed political dialogue than to attain a breakthrough in economic cooperation, especially when there is little about ASEAN-Russia trade except for Russia’s relation with Viet Nam during Soviet times and some bilateral relations with Singapore (Chufrin, 2007). However, this notion is unlikely to be true applying to the context of current days because ASEAN-6, if not all ASEAN members, have elevated their status to be the main trading partners in the region of Russia; in addition, the fourth AEM-Russia Consultations concluded with a satisfying result that trade between Russia and ASEAN in 2014 grew to $22.5 billion from $19.9 billion figure in 2013.This progressive outcome along with the ASEAN Economic Communityenvisage the fruitful future relations between the two parties – ASEAN and Russia – as well as new opportunities for both.

ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) is an evidence of member states’ never-ending efforts in hope to bring about development to their countries and prosperity to their citizens. The ASEAN Leaders adopted the Bali Concord II in Indonesia in 2003 to establish an ASEAN Community comprising of three main pillars – economic community, political and security community and sociocultural community – by 2020. Four years later, the commitment of states’ leaders were strongly reaffirmed when they signed the Cebu Declaration on the Acceleration of an ASEAN Community by 2015 and in that same year the Blueprints for ASEAN Community was finally developed. As a matter of fact, AEC is the fulfillment of the final goal of economic integration as envisioned in the Vision 2020, which visualizes interests of ASEAN Member States to deepen and broaden economic integration through current and new initiatives. The first characteristic of AEC is single market and production based which allowed free flow of goods and services thereby providing people with variety of products and larger market to both consumers and producers. Free-flow of skilled labor, another pillar of single market and production base, eliminates barrier of labor movement in priority areas. By the same token, the single market and production base also focus on a freer flow of capital and open investment regime, a key in attracting intra-ASEAN investment and Foreign Direct Investment, creates a larger diversity of employment opportunity for youth to display their work’s capability in the area of business and entrepreneurship. The second characteristic of AEC is equitable economic development. Actually, AEC is an attempt to close to development gap between ASEAN-6 and CLMV and it is also a proof of the developed members’ determination in achieving a regional sustainable growth. The last two features of AEC are competitive economic region and competing in the global competitive market as one ASEAN. They indicate the desire of ASEAN member countries to bind togetheras one to enter and compete in global arena.

For either today or tomorrow, Russia is an important partner to ASEAN, and vice versa. The opportunity for Russia centers on its role as an active economic actor in Southeast Asia. Although the economic cooperation between ASEAN and Russia has attributed to an upward trend in trade, it is still undeniable the other countries, for example China, have held a more prominent role in this field due to the latter’s geographical proximity, historical interactions and the like.Establishing new effective and beneficial trade policy is a means to expand the sphere of influence in ASEAN because ASEAN as a region of more than 700 million people is a potential partner for Russia. Another prospect is that ASEAN could serve as Russia ‘window to Asia’ (Torres, 2013).Many countries has created the Pivot to Asia policy because of the increasingly important power that this region hold in the world today. ASEAN is a key in Russia returning to its throne as the largest world super power and reviving the prosperity of Russian people. Lastbut not the leastis the birth of another Comprehensive Programme of Action (CPA) to foster the link of cooperation between ASEAN and Russia for the post-2015 era. In light of CPA 2005-2015, six areas of economic cooperation – Trade and Investment Cooperation, Industry, Energy, Transport, Finance and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) – and some functional cooperation namely tourism, environment, human resource development and so on were touched upon. However, this agreement will soon reach its expiry date. Therefore, it is conclusive to assert that a new CPA will be inaugurated. All things mentioned, opportunities in ASEAN is almost infinite for Russia.

Reference:

ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint. (2008). Jakarta: Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Chufrin, G. (2007). Russia-ASEAN Relations New Directions. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.

Torres, E. (2013). Southeastern Promises?: An Appraisal of the Russia-ASEAN Economic Partnership. Retrieved October 23, 2015.

Somphospheak HENG (Cambodia)



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