WEF East Asia: Opportunities abound for ASEAN economic community

WEF East AsiaThe milestone launching of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) gives South-East Asian nations the opportunity to take the region to the next level of development, though there are significant challenges ahead, according to the Co-Chairs of the 24th World Economic Forum on East Asia, held in Jakarta, Indonesia, April 19-21, 2015.

The AEC creates a single regional common market of Asean countries with a free flow of goods, services, investment capital and skilled labour.

“There is an eagerness to make this work and put all the elements in action to move forward, have a level playing field, a much bigger market and grow the pie significantly in the next few years,” said Hans-Paul Bürkner, Chairman of The Boston Consulting Group.

The theme of the World Economic Forum on East Asia 2015 was “Anchoring Trust in East Asia’s New Realism”. Building trust among all stakeholders and in institutions will be crucial if ASEAN is to succeed in reaping the full benefits of regional integration.

“People have lost trust in the ability of markets and business to create wealth and to fairly allocate opportunities,” observed John Riady, Executive Director of the Lippo Group in Indonesia. “So it is important for business to reflect on its role and the role that it can play in society. But this is important not only for business. No matter who we are – whether in government, education, media or NGO – this is an important time to reflect on stewardship, how we can be better stewards of what we have been given, and how we can rethink what we are doing and better structure our institutions to reflect the realities of our world.”

Teresita Sy-Coson, Vice-Chairperson of SM Investments Corporation in the Philippines, said that the discussions at WEF East Asia had highlighted the major challenges ahead for labour mobility. “There is now an understanding of the importance of the freer movement of human capital,” she said.

William Lacy Swing, Director-General of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in Geneva, agreed: “It is quite clear that, with the very exciting regional integration going on here, human mobility will be increased and expedited as a result. We have to look at it as both a challenge and opportunity. Migration is not a problem to solve; it is a reality to be managed.”