Indonesia is persisting in its stand against the idea of other ASEAN members to transform the grouping into a more integrated union within 10 years, citing economic differences as the main reason, according to a government official on Wednesday.
ASEAN Cooperation's director general for international trade co-operation, Donna Gultom, said that even though Indonesia shared similarities with other ASEAN countries, contrasting economic developments among member states made it impossible for them to form a union.
"A union is not for ASEAN. It's impossible for us. With a union, we will integrate as one state and we can't make our own economic policy for our own interest," Donna told thejakartapost.com.
According to Donna, although other export-oriented member countries such as Singapore and Malaysia kept pushing Indonesia to envision Southeast Asia developing into an integrated union in 10 years, Indonesia was highly motivated to resist it.
Donna said that the government intended to maintain the country's sovereignty and domestic policies. While still focusing on improving domestic connectivity, particularly in infrastructure, Indonesia would attempt not to move too ambitiously and would take development step by step.
With the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) coming by the end of this year and to constantly improve co-operation, Indonesia wants to postpone exploring the union idea to ensure that ASEAN would not move too fast, Donna added.
"We represent 40 per cent of ASEAN economic output. Other members should consider that. If we don't want it, they should not force us," said Donna, adding that Indonesia was considered as an "unmoving country" by other member states even after years of integration heading toward the AEC.
Meanwhile, economist Iwan Jaya Azis also asserted that by integrating into a union, Indonesia would be tied to regional rules, thus making it harder for Indonesia to make its own decisions, particularly when facing economic crises.
Drawing an example from Greece, Azis asserted that that nation was unable to rise by itself because of being bound to the European Union as a member, while ideally Greece may have been able to escape its financial crisis if the country could have regulated its own economic policy.
"ASEAN should never follow the EU to form a union. Our economies should not be tied," said Azis.