The writer says ensuring the right balance between economic growth and sustainability is key for ASEAN.
As we celebrate the anniversary of the founding of Asean, it is worth reflecting on the extraordinary journey the association has embarked on over the past 55 years.
The transformation of South-east Asia has been nothing short of remarkable. The founding of Asean in 1967 ushered in tremendous growth and prosperity brought through the collective pursuit of trade liberalisation and economic development.
With a combined GDP of more than US$3.4 trillion (S$4.7 trillion) in 2021, the region has now emerged as the world's fifth-largest economy, and is on-track to become the fourth largest by 2030.
There is no doubt that Asean still has a long way to go, but more importantly, member states remain resolute in moving toward a true Asean Economic Community (AEC). The achievements made through this gradual and incremental process are indeed worth celebrating.
Over the past decade, intra-Asean trade increased from US$500 billion in 2010 to US$712 billion in 2021, making up about 21 per cent of the region's total trade. With more than US$3 trillion of total trade, Asean has become the fourth-largest trader in the world, behind only the European Union, China and the United States. Similarly, Asean's trade in services also grew by 70 per cent from US$441 billion in 2010 to US$637 billion in 2020.
Meanwhile, an improved business climate has boosted Asean's attractiveness for global investors. The Asean Comprehensive Investment Agreement signed in 2009 and the recently launched ASEAN Investment Facilitation Framework have established a free-and-open investment regime in the region. Total foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows into Asean grew from US$108 billion in 2010 to US$175 billion in 2021, making Asean the world's third-largest FDI recipient after the US and China.