Philippine Daily Inquirer - - BUSINESS - By Roy Stephen C. Canivel @roy­canivel_INQ

The As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions (Asean) will find it hard to be­come a ma­jor eco­nomic force by 2050 if it fails to meet its goal to be­come a fully func­tion­ing eco­nomic com­mu­nity by 2025, said For­mer Pres­i­dent Glo­ria Ma­ca­pa­gal Ar­royo.

Ar­royo, who chaired Asean in 2007, said this in her speech dur­ing the Asean Business and In­vest­ment Sum­mit (Abis) on Tues­day, wherein she was tasked to talk about what Asean would look like 50 years from now.

“I have no crys­tal ball and nei­ther has ev­ery­one,” she said, not­ing how dif­fi­cult it is to pre­dict the fu­ture, given how un­pre­dictable Asean has been.

Nev­er­the­less, she said hit- ting the bloc’s goals nearly a decade from now would give it a “great chance” of be­com­ing a stronger econ­omy in five decades.

Es­tab­lished in 2015, the Asean Eco­nomic Com­mu­nity (AEC) laid down a blue­print for the decade ahead.

In essence, the re­gion wants to be highly in­te­grated and co­he­sive, and at the same time in­clu­sive and peo­ple-cen­tered, she said.

“If we achieve our vi­sion in eight years, we have a great chance of be­ing a global force in 50 years, but if we can’t even achieve that vi­sion in 2025 we’ll have an up­hill bat­tle,” she said.

She said there was a need to break down non­tar­iff bar­ri­ers in the re­gion, as well as im­ple­ment agree­ments that aim to bring down bar­ri­ers on the flow of la­bor.

The for­mer Pres­i­dent hosted last week a wel­come din­ner for Cam­bo­dian Prime Min­is­ter Hun Sen and Myan­mar State Coun­selor Aung San Suu Kyi. She said she asked the prime min­is­ter about his vi­sion 50 years ahead, and the lat­ter said that “Asean would have suc­ceeded in nar­row­ing the de­vel­op­ment gap” among mem­ber states by then.

She, how­ever, said that there might still be in­come dis­par­ity “within na­tions” even if such gap was nar­rowed.

“If huge seg­ments of a coun­try and a com­mu­nity of na­tions are left be­hind by progress, then these dis­ad­van­taged sec­tors and states will re­ject de­vel­op­ment and glob­al­iza­tion par­a­digms and em­brace al­ter­na­tive and of­ten iso­la­tion­ist and some­times ex­trem­ist and vi­o­lent ide­olo­gies,” she said.

“So for open economies and free en­ter­prise to win, ev­ery­one must win,” she added.

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