Western countries have criticized ASEAN for being too "soft" in its approach to promoting human rights and democracy in the junta-led Myanmar. Despite global outrage at the military crack-down on peaceful protesters in Yangon, ASEAN has refused to suspend Myanmar as a member and also rejects proposals for economic sanctions. This has caused concern as the European Union, a potential trade partner, has refused to conduct free trade negotiations at a regional level for these political reasons. International observers view it as a "talk shop", which implies that the organization is "big on words but small on action".
During the 12th ASEAN Summit in Cebu, several activist groups staged anti-globalization and anti-Arroyo rallies. According to the activists, the agenda of economic integration would negatively affect industries in the Philippines and would cause thousands of Filipinos to lose their jobs. They also viewed the organization as "imperialistic" that threatens the country's sovereignty. A human rights lawyer from New Zealand was also present to protest about the human rights situation in the region in general.
ASEAN has agreed to an ASEAN human rights body which will come into force in 2009. The Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand want this body to have an enforcement capacity, however Singapore, Viet Nam, Burma, Laos and Cambodia do not.
Free Trade Area
The foundation of the AEC is the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA), a common external preferential tariff scheme to promote the free flow of goods within ASEAN. The ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) is an agreement by the member nations of ASEAN concerning local manufacturing in all ASEAN countries. The AFTA agreement was signed on 28 January 1992 in Singapore. When the AFTA agreement was originally signed, ASEAN had six members, namely, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Vietnam joined in 1995, Laos and Myanmar in 1997, and Cambodia in 1999. The latecomers have not fully met the AFTA's obligations, but they are officially considered part of the AFTA as they were required to sign the agreement upon entry into ASEAN, and were given longer time frames in which to meet AFTA's tariff reduction obligations.
Comprehensive Investment Area
The ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Area (ACIA) will encourage the free flow of investment within ASEAN. The main principles of the ACIA are as follows
* All industries are to be opened up for investment, with exclusions to be phased out according to schedules
* National treatment is granted immediately to ASEAN investors with few exclusions
* Elimination of investment impediments
* Streamlining of investment process and procedures
* Enhancing transparency
* Undertaking investment facilitation measures
Full realization of the ACIA with the removal of temporary exclusion lists in manufacturing agriculture, fisheries, forestry and mining is scheduled by 2010 for most ASEAN members and by 2015 for the CLMV (Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Vietnam) countries.
Trade in Services
An ASEAN Framework Agreement on Trade in Services was adopted at the ASEAN Summit in Bangkok in December 1995.Under the agreement, ASEAN members are negotiating intra-regional services liberalization in several sectors, including air transport, business services, construction, financial services, maritime transport, telecommunications and tourism. Although some sectors have liberalized faster, such as air transport, other sectors remain subject to continued negotiation. Efforts to expand the scope of the Framework Agreement also remain subject to continued negotiations.
· 1 decade ago