University of Tasmania
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ASEAN : political and diplomatic role towards the new international economic order

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posted on 2023-05-26, 22:53 authored by de Zoysa, Mahadura Osweled A
The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) was established in 1967, with the signing of the Bangkok Declaration (ASEAN Declaration) by Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. When ASEAN was established, it was conventional wisdom that the new organization would be short-lived and many observers thought that ASEAN would probably be destroyed by disputes between the member countries. Despite these early speculations on its long-term viability, ASEAN has gradually grown as an important regional grouping, with increased recognition from the outside world, and has played a very significant role in the promotion of regional co-operation in political and economic affairs during the last twelve years. The promotion of regional economic co-operation was the principal objective of ASEAN at its founding in 1967. However, an analysis of the factors accounting for the formation of ASEAN suggests that it was not established primarily as a vehicle for economic development in the member countries. The five countries grouped themselves together in 1967 mainly for political and security reasons. The political objectives of the five countries were twofold. The first objective was to build up regional political cohesion as a counter-weight to the great powers who appeared to be competing with each other in regional political affairs. The second objective was to strengthen the national stability of the five countries in the face of the growing communist threat which was perceived to be of two kinds - an internal threat from communist subversion and insurgency and an external threat from China. However, because of the sensitive nature of international and regional political environment, ASEAN was initially formally limited to activities such as the promotion of regional co-operation in economic, social, cultural, educational, scientific and administrative fields. These were areas of a non-controversial nature. The early 1970's marked the beginning of a new era in the Southeast Asian political environment. The U.S.A. was gradually withdrawing from the Vietnam war while developing friendly relations with China. The relations between the U.S.A. and the Soviet Union had also entered into a new era and the word 'detente' became a watchword in the Soviet-American relations. The Great Cultural Revolution in China came to an end and China appeared to have changed its aggressive policy towards the ASEAN countries since the end of the Cultural Revolution. The Indo-Chinese war came to an end in 1975 with the fall of South Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos into the communist ‚Äöhands and the new Indo-Chinese communist states were predominantly occupied with the re-construction of their economies. All these factors combined to bring a relatively stable political environment into Southeast Asia in the mid-1970's at least for a short period. These political developments have had a profound impact on ASEAN. In particular, the changing attitudes of China towards ASEAN countries have considerably reduced the fear of external communist threat to them. That, in turn, has caused the ASEAN countries to place greater emphasis on internal political stability. As a consequence, such issues as economic development and regional economic co-operation have begun to gradually overshadow the previous regional preoccupation with security and defence. The ASEAN has realised that economic and social progress in the member countries is the best weapon to combat internal communist subversion and insurgency. As ASEAN economies are export-led economies, international trade plays an important role in the economic development of these countries. Except in the case of Singapore, the economies of the ASEAN countries are based on agriculture and mining industry. They produce raw materials and commodities which have been the main sources of foreign exchange for these countries. In recent years, most of the international commodity markets have been characterised by such features as deteriorating terms of trade, fluctuating prices and demand and increased use of substitution in consumer countries. The instability in the commodity markets has resulted in the instability of export earnings which in turn has considerably weakened the economic development of the ASEAN countries in recent years. One adverse consequence of this heavy dependency on the export of primary products has been the growing international indebtedness of the ASEAN countries as their export earnings have always been exceeded by their import expenditures. The recent efforts of the ASEAN countries to diversify exports through a process of industrialization have been weakened by a number of factors of which the marketing of manufactured products is the most important. The internal markets of the ASEAN countries cannot provide adequate outlets for goods manufactured in these countries due to the low level of the purchasing power of the people.


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Copyright 1980 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s). Thesis (M.A.)--University of Tasmania, 1981. Bibliography: l. 198-205

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