The dynamic (and rapidly expanding, now 200 members) Automotive Focus Group (AFG) held its monthly meeting at the Amari. The topic was very salient to the industries covered by the AFG and was the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), looking at the threats and opportunities.
The AEC holds many promises for its member states and peoples, with free flow of goods and services, free flow of labor, harmonized policies … but is this really what is going to happen, or is it a Utopian dream?
The principal speaker was Andrew Durieux, a past president of the Australian Chamber of Commerce, and currently chairman of the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce Thailand (JFCCT) AEC Committee, who spoke on the AEC and how it will affect us, our businesses and our industry.
Some history was in order, with ASEAN having been formed in 1967, and receiving its charter in 2007. The original ASEAN is now joined with a group known as CMLV (Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam), but these latter four are somewhat behind in their employing the statutes enshrined by ASEAN.
With the AEC in place, and operating smoothly, there will exist policies to allow skilled labor groups to move freely around ASEAN. This includes doctors, dentists, accountants, engineers, nurses and architects. This relies on MRA’s (Mutual Recognition Agreements), and Andrew Durieux brought out the fact that there are many “get out of jail cards fee”, as the MRA’s have to be agreed upon, and some of the ASEAN countries do not have such legislation. He also pointed out that these skilled worker groups have to be ASEAN citizens, and if they want a license to work in Thailand will need to have literacy in the Thai language. “Free” movement would appear to be a pipe dream.
He pointed out that ASEAN is not really united, and Thailand has adopted a somewhat protectionist attitude with its plethora of regulations and laws, spanning many different government departments. (A festival of red tape!)
There are opportunities for the ASEAN countries provided by a “working” AEC, such as in the stock markets, ASEAN bonds, Customs agreements, a single Tourist visa, which Andrew Durieux said could be a “Flagship Project” which is needed give the disparate ASEAN countries a common focus.
He finished stating that for Thailand, the possibilities are good, IF the Thai government were to focus on the advantages that the AEC could bring. But will it? The “mor doo” (fortune teller) was not sure!