Launched as a political bloc and security pact in the aftermath of the Viet Nam War, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has evolved to embrace an ambitious economic agenda. Its latest project is to establish the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by 31 December 2015. Fulfilling these commitments would promote predictability in ASEAN, as well as strengthen its credibility. But is ASEAN likely to meet this deadline? The blueprint for achieving the goal envisages the AEC standing on four pillars and meeting the deadline depends on progress on each of them. Each pillar presents a demanding set of challenges to be met before the AEC can be fully realized. We find that although ASEAN has come a long way toward realizing its goal, the challenges that remain suggest that the AEC will miss its approaching deadline. Accommodating AEC accords will not be easy when they require changes to domestic laws or even the national constitution. The flexibility that characterizes ASEAN cooperation, the celebrated "ASEAN way," may hand member states a convenient pretext for noncompliance. How to enforce the accords remains an issue. If the AEC is to be more than a display of political solidarity, ASEAN must find a way to give the commitments more teeth. The real test for the community, therefore, will lie in the years ahead.
AEC 2015 ASEAN Economic Community ASEAN economic integration ASEAN trade and investment economic integration post-2015 agenda