Asia & the Pacific Policy Studies

ASEAN’s leadership in the regional comprehensive economic partnership

By Yoshifumi Fukunaga

Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) centrality was one of the biggest motivations for ASEAN’s proposal of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in 2011. In order to gain both politically and economically, ASEAN should play proactive roles in the RCEP negotiation as the driver of substance. ASEAN has already started exercising its influence over the substances of ASEAN + 1 free trade agreements (FTAs). In order to further strengthen its leadership in the RCEP, ASEAN should utilise the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) as the model for RCEP. AEC has achieved a much deeper level of integration than the existing ASEAN + 1 FTAs by setting high ambitions with processes to induce reform initiatives of member states. By using familiar AEC measures, ASEAN can create a single and common position despite the large development gaps among its member states. If modelled after AEC, the RCEP will enforce ASEAN’s reform efforts.

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