Sunday, December 3, 2023

ASEAN More Stable Than EU, Mercosur: Business Group

Jayanty Nada Shofa
November 11, 2023 | 7:35 am
President Joko "Jokowi"Widodo and other Southeast Asian leaders do the ASEAN handshake at the 43rd ASEAN Summit in Jakarta on September 5, 2023. (Photo Courtesy of 2023 ASEAN Summit Media Center)
President Joko "Jokowi"Widodo and other Southeast Asian leaders do the ASEAN handshake at the 43rd ASEAN Summit in Jakarta on September 5, 2023. (Photo Courtesy of 2023 ASEAN Summit Media Center)

Jakarta. ASEAN may be more stable and is growing at a faster pace than other trading blocs, according to the Southeast Asian grouping’s business lobby.

Indonesia is moving closer to the end of its ASEAN chairmanship. Throughout the year, Indonesia has been trying to make ASEAN an “epicentrum of growth”. The ASEAN Business Advisory Council (BAC) --the bloc’s private sector group-- recently said ASEAN had proven itself as an epicentrum of growth compared to other blocs. 

As a case in point, intra-ASEAN trade has grown significantly compared to that of Mercosur which encompasses Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Venezuela was a member. However, Mercosur suspended Venezuela’s membership after it failed to meet the bloc’s standards. 

“Intra-ASEAN trade has grown tenfold compared to 25 years ago. Intra-Mercosur trade only rose by 1.5-fold within 20 years,” Bernardino Moningka Vega, the alternate chair of ASEAN BAC, said at a recent virtual conference.


Unlike the European Union (EU), ASEAN remained intact since its inception and has not had a member withdraw. The UK left the EU in 2020, a move popularly known as “Brexit”. “

"Fifteen years ago, if you asked someone who is an expert on the European economy, 'which bloc would have its members leave -- is it ASEAN or EU?'. They would not answer 'EU'. But here we are, look at Brexit,” Bernardino said.

The Indonesian businessman also brought up the sanctions among the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members. This is an economic alliance of six Middle Eastern countries, namely Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman.

"I remember the UAE and Saudi Arabia imposing sanctions on Qatar. We don’t have ASEAN members sanctioning one another,” Bernardino told the forum.

Bernardino was referring to the 2017 sanctions that the said two countries --alongside Bahrain and Egypt-- had launched against Qatar, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism. 

Another example is the India-Pakistan relations. In 2019, Pakistan halted trade with India following New Delhi’s revocation of the special status on the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir.

“If we go to South Asia, Pakistan and India are not even trading with one another,” Bernardino said.

He added: "I would say ASEAN is a region that is not only an epicentrum of growth. It is the center of security. I do admit there are existing regulatory framework issues [that ASEAN needs to work on]. Sometimes ASEAN takes two steps forward, but then takes a step back. But if you want to wait for a perfect world, you are going to be left behind.”

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