ASEAN can be bigger than European Union - WEF

Posted at 05/22/14 1:09 PM

MANILA - The World Economic Forum's (WEF) managing director sees bright prospects for the ASEAN integration in 2015 as long as economic and security issues are managed.

Speaking to ANC on Thursday, Espen Eide said he sees an integrated ASEAN as potentially bigger than the European Union in economic output.

He, however, said it won't be without threats and losers.

"I do believe that the ASEAN prospects are good that there's a lot of will and dynamism. But I think it's also important to understand that it will take some effort to actually get to this economic community. There will be winners and losers, and there should be a shared understanding of the overall benefits of integrating. There's still a long way to go," he said.

"I think it's important that ASEAN become not just a community of political leaders but also of citizens and industries... Countries become more effective and more competitive by working together, by reducing barriers. But there will also be people who will lose in the short run," he added.

Eide, who is also Norway's former foreign and defense minister, does not think maritime disputes should impede countries in the region from getting the full benefits of ASEAN integration.

"It should actually strengthen regional integration, and I think one of the positive initiatives that the ASEAN has taken with China is the attempt to develop a code of conduct for behavior in maritime areas," he said.

On Wednesday, Vietnam and the Philippines forged a strategic partnership and jointly asked China to stop what they believe are its illegal activities in the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea.