ASEAN Economic Community: Content and Roadmap

ASEAN Economic Community: Content and Roadmap, edited by Nguyen Hong Son (Hanoi: Social Sciences Publishing House, 2009, 228 pp.).

Reviewed by Nguyen Manh Hung (Institute of World Economics and Politics, Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences).

The initiative to establish the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), one of three pillars of the ASEAN Community, was adopted by ASEAN leaders at the 2003 Bali Summit. Since then AEC has become an issue that attracts a great deal of attention from international relations scholars in Vietnam. “ASEAN Economic Community: Content and Roadmap” (Cộng đồng kinh tế ASEAN: Nội dung và Lộ trình) edited by Nguyen Hong Son is a collective work by researchers of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies and Institute of World Economics and Politics, Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences. The book brings the readers the current thought of Vietnamese scholars in the field of international studies on AEC from a political economy perspective.

The book consists of three chapters. Chapter One, “The Formation of AEC”, looks at the latter issue from two approaches. Neo-functionalism, which is a common theoretical viewpoint in the study of the European Economic Community, argues that the AEC will emerge from the integration spillover of the economic sectors in Southeast Asia ad part of a market-driven process. Yet, the authors also appreciate a realist view which tends to see the creation of AEC as a policy response of ASEAN governments to international and domestic competitive pressures, and the creation of AEC as a state-driven process. Chapter Two, “Major Characteristics of AEC and Their Implications”, is a descriptive analysis of the objectives, implementation stages and measures of AEC; possible social, economic and political impacts of AEC on the ASEAN countries; and barriers to the establishment and consolidation of AEC. The authors contend that the development gap is the biggest barrier, while strong political will is a decisive factor in the consolidation of AEC. They are optimistic that AEC can be achieved by 2015 as scheduled to become a single market and production base, or a Free Trade Area plus, with free flow of goods, services, investment and skilled labor, and freer flow of capital by 2020. However, a longer future for AEC is uncertain. It may evolve into a Custom Union and Common Market, or it may disappear in a more integrated Asia-Pacific region. Chapter Three, “Vietnam’s Participation in AEC”, provides a narrative account of the participation of Vietnam in AEC, pointing out the possible effects of AEC on the development of Vietnam. Although the authors acknowledge the importance of AEC, they recommend that the global market, rather than AEC, should be the final goal for the international economic integration of Vietnam.

The book offers a provocative, insightful view on the present and future of AEC. Although some parts of the book are largely descriptive, overall the book is worth reading to understand the current viewpoints of Vietnamese scholars in the field of international relations regarding the current state of regional integration in Southeast Asia.