ASEAN’s record participation at WEF represents the region’s rise on the global stage

ASEAN’s record participation at WEF represents the region’s rise on the global stage


By Lucy Tomlinson

2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). An organisation formed on the basis of promoting economic growth and regional stability among its ten members, it has come a long way since its formation.

ASEAN set a record participation at the 2017 World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting in Davos. More than 100 participants from ASEAN attended, including the Prime Ministers of Vietnam and Cambodia, over 20 government ministers from the region, and the leaders of 36 regional companies.

“The record participation of Southeast Asia in Davos this year was a hallmark both of the region’s historic 50th anniversary and the region’s rising importance. At the start of 2016, the 10 economies of ASEAN were collectively the seventh-largest economy in the world. By the start of 2017, that rank had improved to sixth, and by 2020 it will be fifth,” said Justin Wood, Head of Asia Pacific at WEF.

In the light of this, what have been ASEAN’s key achievements over the last fifty years, and what are the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead? Following WEF Nazir Razak, Chairman of CIMB Group, and Chair of WEF’s ASEAN Regional Strategy Group (RSG), said: “Over the course of 50 years, the ASEAN organisation has achieved more than anyone would have imagined. Most importantly, it has helped to promote the regional peace and harmony so that our nations could develop in an environment of stability and good relations.”

ASEAN’s success in bringing peace and stability to the region has fostered rapid economic growth and modernisation, however there is still a way to go for the region to address the many remaining barriers that stand in the way of creating a truly competitive regional model. As Razak says, ASEAN has to think about how it can “harness digital technologies to create new business models and new development paths.” He said: “We have to work on building much-needed infrastructure. We have to think deeply about how to educate the youth of the region so that they have the skills for the jobs of tomorrow. And we have to encourage a flourishing of entrepreneurship and the development of SMEs.”

Looking ahead to the World Economic Forum on ASEAN which will be held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in May 2017, members of the ASEAN RSG will develop a list of proposals developing practical ideas to address the challenges of achieving better regional integration and further promote its presence on the world stage.

Asia House has launched a new series of events for 2017. The New Global Trade Order will assemble decision-makers and influences to discuss the evolving global treading architecture. The first briefing of the series will be with former US Ambassador to the EU Anthony Gardener. For more information on this briefing, which is on Thursday 9 March, click here.