Integration, synergy vital for Asean to emulate EU success


ASEAN should create synergy and allow economic integration among its member countries to emulate the European Union’s (EU) success.

Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah said foreign investors are keen to tap into Asean’s economy, but they prefer a common Asean market to do so.

Citing the Asean Quality Assurance Network (AQAN) as an example, Saifuddin said such a concept should be adopted in all Asean-related matters, especially in the economic sector.

AQAN was formed to promote and share good practices of quality assurance in higher education in the South-East Asia region.

“When I was the minister of higher education, one of the issues was universities from outside (Asean) making their presence here.

“Having to speak to 10 different ministries of education was quite a hustle, and that was when we came up with AQAN — so now there is only one website for reference,” Saifuddin said at the Malaysian Business Angel Network (MBAN) Asean Angel Alliance Summit 2018 in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

He said Asean, as an association, has so far failed to explore its strength properly.

“I think the association is struggling to create synergy to take the benefits from their mutual trade and that is actually the biggest source of frustration for member states.

“We have to first increase the intra-Asean trade, which have been low for over many years, and far below that of other economic groupings such as the EU and the North American Free Trade Agreement,” said Saifuddin.

Formed in 1967, the 10-state bloc aimed to establish intergovernmental cooperation, as well as facilitate smooth movement of goods and services across the region.

Saifuddin further added that it is a long way still for Asean to achieve economic integration similar to the EU.

“The EU is just something else entirely, it could take generations before we achieve something like that,” he said.

Meanwhile, MBAN president Dr Sivapalan Vivekarajah said there have been ongoing discussions to set up an Asean investment fund.

“Talks have been there among angel investors to form such a fund, whereby all partners are given a stake and can actually invest in each of the member countries,” Sivapalan said, but admitted the efforts were met with many challenges.

Commenting on the summit, Sivapalan said the goal is to increase and encourage cross-border angel investing opportunities.

“We have created a platform for attendees to get premier access to some of the most successful angel investors in the world, and to gain insights into best practices that help navigate likely successes and potential failures,” he added.