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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        9  May 2011

Doubts rise on integrating Asean

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Despite President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono proclaiming significant progress in efforts to form an Asean Economic Community by 2015, some Indonesian observers and lawmakers have yet to be convinced about the scheme.

Asean leaders have targeted 2015 as the start of the AEC’s integration.

The integration aims to establish a single market economy that will enable member states to leverage their combined population of 600 million people and gross domestic product of $1.5 trillion to compete with regional giants, including powerhouses China and India.

“The Asean Economic Community is a great challenge for Indonesia. Economically, Indonesia is not strong enough and has to be careful in integrating economic forces in Asean,” said Adhitya Wardhono, an economist at Jember University.

“The AEC will turn Asean into a status more than that of the Asean Free Trade Area, which arranges only tariff reductions for imports, exports and services. This requires strong economic structure in the member states.”

Adhitya said implementation of AEC had consequences. Countries whose industries are not yet efficient may suffer from a glut of imported goods on one hand and on the other face difficulties in penetrating other markets in the region.

He also blamed the government, saying it had yet to establish clear policies and regulations in areas such as business competition and anti-dumping protection.

Golkar Party legislator Fayakhun Andriadi, a member of House of Representatives Commission I, which oversees defense and foreign affairss, said Indonesia should not be fooled by incentives such as an open-skies policy.

“This will benefit smaller countries and disadvantage those who have fly zones as spacious as that of European airspace. This is unfair,” he said.

He also criticized the lack of pathways for Indonesian imports and exports.

“Why are exports and imports are carried out as if there was only one gate? Why can’t they be shipped directly through Tanjung Priok? Exports and imports carried through a certain country will benefit it a lot in the form of margin transit gains,” he said.

He also said he did not share the opinion that all transactions must pass through Singapore.

“It should not happen that we are the producer of a commodity but Singapore is its exporter. This is funny. Singapore is not a nutmeg producer, but it is the world’s biggest nutmeg exporter,” he said. 

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