Integrity Legal

8th January 2016

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was initially formed in 1967 and now includes the jurisdictions of Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, and Myanmar. Initially, ASEAN was a sort of loose coalition which generally acted in cooperation on matters of trade facilitation and various forms of international law and regulatory enforcement. The ASEAN Community which came into being on January 1, 2016 is a different type of entity. The AC is more akin to the European Union. Although, in many respects the AC and the EU are markedly different, most notably in the fact that the AC is unlikely to see anything resembling a unified currency any time soon. However, this blogger would posit that it is not an impossibility that a coordinated currency policy could come to exist in the AC region in the future.

One of the interesting aspects of the AC is the so-called ASEAN Economic Community or AEC. This is the economic infrastructure of the new community. At present completely free movement of people and labor is not being implemented by the community, but there are signs that such a scenario could come to pass in later phases of the AC. For example, there are 8 occupations which will be allowed freer movement within the AEC framework and they are: accounting, dental services, architecture, surveying, nursing, tourism, engineering and medical services. Those who hail from one of the ASEAN jurisdictions and engage in the aforementioned endeavors could see their career prospects improved as a result of new markets opening for their specific skill set. In Thailand it appears AC passport holders will still be required to obtain a Thai work permit, notwithstanding the creation of the AEC .

As can be seen from the various ceremonies marking the creation of the AC it is clear that many of the respective ASEAN governments welcome the establishment of the AC with open arms. In Thailand, the establishment of the AC coupled with the plans to make Bangkok the rail hub for trade between Eastern Southeast Asia, Western Southeast Asia, and Southern China could mean that Bangkok will become a central entrepot for trade and travel. Meanwhile, Thai officials are still studying the provisions of the Trans Pacific Partnership.

How the AC will ultimately function remains to be seen as the union brings together disparate political systems and jurisdictions with radically differing economies, but one thing is clear: the AC is poised to be the most dynamic economy worldwide as the region is a crossroads for trade and the economies throughout the region appear ready to significantly expand in the future.  As of the time of this writing there does not appear to be a coordinated plan to create unified ASEAN visa structure akin to the Schengen system, but in time such a development may come to fruition


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