Southeast Asia pushes for Union to encourage regional ties and investment

By Michelle Yeomans

- Last updated on GMT

Southeast Asia pushes for Union to encourage regional ties and investment

Related tags Asean economic community Southeast asia

As the Association of Southeast Asian Nations moves towards a unified 10-member state, measures are being put in place to reduce trade barriers, ease investment, and ensure the free flow of goods, services and skilled labour.

According to news corporation Al Jazeera, ASEAN is on course for the December 31st​ deadline, with the likes of Indonesia and Malaysia pushing for a common time zone to encourage regional ties, connections, and investment within the region.

The network says some are in doubt as to the formation of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) since the nations have distinct cultures, histories, languages, currencies, and a history of political mistrust.

"Yet, others see [ASEAN as] an economic powerhouse in the making, with a population of some 620 million - larger than the European Union​," it reported.

'One market - one standard'

Furthermore, ASEAN leaders are flagging up cosmetics makers as an early example of an industry that is making strides towards "One Standard, One Market" integration.

According to Elaine Tan, executive director of the ASEAN Foundation, by working under a common definition for cosmetics, labelling requirements and industry standards; makers of personal care products are able to boost exports to major markets like Japan and the US.

Tan says they will also be able to keep up consumer trends such as a growing demand for halal and men's products.

Thailand tipped to be gateway to ASEAN

Japan’s small and medium-sized enterprises see Thailand as the hub of ASEAN’s markets and are currently investing in partnerships as a result.

Japanese companies are favouring Thailand due to its rising economic growth as well as supply-chain industries, thanks to larger Japanese companies already based there.

In 2014, the Ministry of Thailand reported more than 10 Japanese SMEs from cosmetics, pharmaceutical and food industries to have partnered up with a local business or to have planted roots in the country.

According to industry representative Chakramon Phasukavanich, the Japanese government is looking at revising the Japan-Thailand Economic Partnership Agreement, and wants at least 10,000 SMEs to begin operating abroad over the next three years because of the country's economic-growth slowdown.

"To facilitate investment, the ministry is aiming to match 500 SMEs with Thai partners," ​he told The China Post.

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