Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Singapore’s EU-styled ASEAN?

It is wrong of Singapore’s former prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, to say of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) trading bloc that “To expect us to make this leap into a European Union will be 50, maybe more, years…” Using the EU as a positive multilateral model, he explained that “I think we make progress slowly. As we rise and we converge towards a more common level there will still be differences but not so stark. Then we can make the moves to free up the borders.” Of course, it could possibly be 50 wasted years for Singapore if it does decide to push for an EU-styled ASEAN.

The ASEAN has a new charter which turns the bloc into a legal entity; it enables the region’s unique nations to promote democracy; it clarifies a given set of principles and rules for each of the 10 members and plans are being made for the integration of their economies with the overarching objective of creating a single market by 2015.

The European Union (a bureaucratic regional body which has sunk the various people of Europe under a tide of unworkable legislation and a new European government) has not succeeded and has failed to operate competitively within an effective global trading system (e.g. take CAP and the mass-snubbing of developing economies trading in agricultural products). It cannot be taken as a good example for other regional trading blocs. Its perceived success is based on daylight robbery of the various taxpaying peoples of Europe and a dogmatic unproven European ideology, all of which will contribute toward its inevitable institutional collapse. This is not a good prototype for the ASEAN bloc.

Lee was, on the other hand, right to assert of the EU and ASEAN that “I don't think they are comparable,” and that ASEAN nations were “very disparate” with differing levels of economic and cultural development, since economic disparity and national uniqueness continues to be a major stumbling block in the EU and a good reason for why Britain has so long been a reluctant member of the EU. If the ASEAN were to develop into a an EU-styled government, so it did end up with a regional Southeast Asian government on its hands and which determined its laws, customs, habits, this would signify a change that seems 50 years back in time and not 50 years ahead. Singapore, I can only suggest, does not need an EU-styled ASEAN.

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