Transnational crime and terrorism
In 1999, at a ministerial meeting, ASEAN raised the issue of cross-border crime for the first time. Although this was classified by the Member States as a non-traditional security issue, it has since been seen as important and has been included in the co-operation. In 2002, the ASEAN states drew up a work plan for the fight against transnational crime, including the exchange of information, extradition co-operation and police co-operation, as well as joint exercises and training.
It was only in connection with the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001 that terrorism began to be seen as an important area of its own. Previously, the issue was mainly part of transnational crime and mainly a national concern. In Indonesia, for example, the issue of terrorism had been linked to separatist aspirations in Papua, Aceh and, before the region became independent in 2002, East Timor. In the Philippines, government forces had long waged a fight against the Muslim guerrilla Abu Sayyaf.
According to physicscat, the ASEAN countries were divided over the US war against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in the autumn of 2001. Indonesia and Malaysia were worried that the war on terror would develop into a war against the entire Muslim world, while US allies such as Thailand and Singapore applauded. Indonesian and Malaysian leaders were also keen not to upset the countries’ many Muslims.
Another reason why the fight against terrorism was difficult to deal with was that it was perceived by some Member States as a threat to the principle of non-interference in internal affairs.
However, two months after the terrorist attack, the ASEAN members still managed to agree on a joint declaration to combat terrorism. But the declaration did not address how member states would cooperate with countries outside the Asean sphere, thus avoiding the controversial issue of attitudes toward the United States. However, Washington was anxious to seek support from the ASEAN states. Southeast Asia was seen as a second front in the war on terror. As early as the fall of 2001, the Philippine government received $ 100 million in US aid for military equipment and training, and the United States also sent troops to assist in the fight against the Abu Sayyaf guerrillas. Later, Indonesia also received American support.
The Bali bombings in October 2002, in which 202 people were killed, increased the priority of terrorism issues. At the Asean Summit a month later, members again adopted a declaration on combating terrorism. Indonesia sharply stepped up its counter-terrorism efforts immediately after the Bali act, but it took a few months before something happened at the regional level. In 2003, special forces for counter-terrorism were formed in the Member States, while the police in the various countries expanded their co-operation, especially with regard to the exchange of information. Several members of the regional Islamist terrorist network Jemah Islamiah, who were identified as behind the Bali attack, were later arrested in various parts of the region as a result of the growing cooperation within ASEAN. The countries’ security services developed their cooperation. A Southeast Asian counter-terrorism institute was set up in Putrajaya in 2003 by Malaysia. The following year, a center for police and security cooperation was established in Jakarta. Together with an institute in Thailand, these will, among other things, train police and security personnel in the fight against terrorism. A few years into the 2000’s, work began within ASEAN on drafting a convention against terrorism. It was signed in January 2007 and entered into force in May 2011 after being ratified by the six Member States Brunei, Cambodia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. A few years into the 2000’s, work began within ASEAN on drafting a convention against terrorism. It was signed in January 2007 and entered into force in May 2011 after being ratified by the six Member States Brunei, Cambodia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. A few years into the 2000’s, work began within ASEAN on drafting a convention against terrorism. It was signed in January 2007 and entered into force in May 2011 after being ratified by the six Member States Brunei, Cambodia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Economy and trade
Although trade issues were part of ASEAN’s economic cooperation from the outset, Member States’ successes in foreign trade have not had much to do with the organization. The trade between the members has been relatively small compared to their trade with other countries and regions. However, free trade cooperation within Afta (see below) has strengthened trade between the two countries, although ASEAN’s trade with China is still growing faster than interregional trade.
In 1977, the countries agreed on a basic arrangement, PTA (Preferential Trade Arrangements), to grant each other reduced tariffs and stimulate trade. It never became particularly effective, partly because each member had the right to exclude what were considered “sensitive” goods. In order to assert itself in the global competition for markets and capital flows, the ASEAN states began in 1992 the work of forming a free trade area, (ASEAN Free Trade Area, Afta). At the same time, they also entered into a new customs agreement, CEPT (Common Effective Preferential Tariff). Unprocessed agricultural goods and certain “sensitive” goods were excluded, but for other products the customs duties would be reduced to a maximum of 20 per cent in the next few years.
Many believed that the financial crisis that hit several of the ASEAN countries in 1997 would mean that economic cooperation would stop and that the countries would isolate themselves financially. Instead, the crisis had the opposite effect. The countries realized that the best way to counter future new crises was to further link the economies and accelerate the trend towards free trade. At the Hanoi Summit in 1998, the countries agreed that the majority of goods covered by Afta in 2002 would have no higher tariffs than 5%. This was true of Asean’s six oldest members: Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Later members – Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar (formerly Burma) – had more time.
However, countries were still able to obtain respite in sensitive areas: in the spring of 2000, Malaysia was given the right to exclude the car industry from tariff reductions until 2005, and in the autumn of 2000, ASEAN members adopted an additional protocol allowing countries with economic problems to temporarily exclude products from the agreement. When Afta finally entered into force among the “old ASEAN members” in January 2002, tariffs on 96% of the goods included in the trade agreement had been reduced to less than 5%. In January 2005, 99 percent of the goods had received customs duties between 1 and 5 percent.
The problems with Afta did not prevent the ASEAN countries from moving forward with more ambitious integration plans. In October 2003, the leaders of the ASEAN countries met in Bali. There, they drew up the guidelines for a common market, which would become a reality by 2020. The aim was to create a stable, prosperous and competitive economic region where there would be free movement of goods, services, investment and a skilled workforce. In addition, capital flows would be less regulated than today and poverty and economic and social disparities would have been reduced. The common market would consist of three pillars, including an Asian Economic Community (AEC). At the Bali meeting, the countries also agreed to form a legal department at the ASEAN Secretariat, which will have the power to resolve trade disputes.
A first step towards the AEC would be to deepen cooperation in eleven priority areas, including fisheries, electronics, textiles, wood products and the aviation sector. Customs and other barriers would be completely eliminated in these areas and safety rules and quality requirements would be coordinated. For the founding countries, 85 percent of all tariffs on products in the eleven areas would be abolished in 2007, while the deadline for the newer member states was set at 2012. After follow-ups showed that integration plans progressed as they would, the ASEAN summit in November 2008 decided that AEC would become a reality by 2015. In May 2010, the ASEAN countries concluded a new trade agreement aimed at consolidating previous agreements in this area.
Asean stated in its annual report for 2010-2011 that several challenges remained before AEC could become a reality. The biggest challenges were stated to be, among other things, to involve the private business sector more in the process, to reduce the differences in the level of development and to strengthen institutional support and macroeconomic coordination.