Asean Summit: Asean Economic Community off to a good start


KUALA LUMPUR - By the time the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) becomes a reality at the end of next month, the 48-year-old regional body will have established itself as a global economic heavyweight.

While the AEC, which aims to set up a single market and production base in ASEAN, will continue to be a work in progress in the coming years, the regional body's success at integrating the economies thus far have been nothing short of remarkable.

ASEAN's economic reputation has seen a sharp upturn in the last seven years, with tremendous progress in the area of trade and foreign direct investment, among others.

ASEAN had a combined GDP of US$2.6 trillion (S$3.7 trillion) last year, making it the seventh largest economy in the world and third largest in Asia.

Based on information sourced from the ASEAN secretariat, the figure had doubled from 2007, while the regional pact's GDP per capita also saw a staggering increase of 76 per cent in that period, from US$2,343  to US$4,135.

The region has also steadily grown as a destination of choice for foreign investors, with ASEAN attracting US$136bil (RM588bil) in foreign direct investment (FDI) last year and accounting for 11 per cent of global FDI inflows.

Intra-ASEAN FDI was the second highest in the world in 2014, coming in just behind the European Union and well ahead of Japan, United States and China.

In terms of trade activities, Intra-ASEAN trade comprised the largest share of ASEAN's total trade by partner.

Meanwhile, total ASEAN trade reached US$2.5 trillion in 2014, turning the region into a potent trading economy.

ASEAN has also made tremendous progress where connectivity and tourism is concerned.

Annual tourist arrivals in ASEAN rose from 62 million in 2007 to 105 million last year, almost half of which were intra-ASEAN.

The region has also seen greater Internet usage in the past seven years, with the rate of subscription more than doubling, to 28.6 per 100 inhabitants.

While those under the age of 30 make up more than half of the current ASEAN population of 622 million people, the region's economy is set to grow and remain sustainable.