Although this year ASEAN celebrates its 40th anniversary, it is still far from economic integration, not the least because it includes political regimes that range from the democratic or semi-democratic (Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia and Singapore) and absolute monarchy (Brunei), to military dictatorship (Myanmar) and Communist states (Vietnam and Laos). And economic differences are as wide as political ones since two of its members,
Indeed many ASEAN members may have enjoyed good rates of economic growth but compared to the rapid take-off of the Chinese juggernaut their situation is stagnant. By contrast, Chinese goods are flooding the world and
In spite of such fears, ASEAN and
Under this deal, which comes a year and half after the two sides agreed to lower tariffs on more than 7,000 products, South-East Asian companies will have greater access to rapidly growing Chinese sectors such as banking, information technology, real estate, health, engineering, education, transport and construction.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao noted that ASEAN-China trade was worth US$ 160.8 billion in 2006, up 23 per cent over the previous year and 17 times what it was 15 years ago.
ASEAN leaders also sealed a sweeping anti-terrorism convention, paving the way for smoother extradition of suspects, joint investigations and crackdowns on terrorists' funding. To come into effect, the pact however must still be ratified by each member state.
Many ASEAN countries are plagued by growing Muslim insurgencies and terror networks like Jemaah Islamiah, which was blamed for deadly bombings in Bali and
To underscore the dangers, last Wednesday, when the summit opened, three bombs killed seven people on the Filipino
Terrorism is also active in southern
ASEAN members also urged
At the East Asia Summit, participants also signed on a declaration on East Asian energy security that lists a series of goals aimed at providing "reliable, adequate and affordable" energy supplies to a huge region from
Among the plans mentioned there is the construction of a regional electricity grid and a natural gas pipeline across