ASEAN Economy Community

With the official launch of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) on 31 December 2015, the ten member countries now form a single market and production base. Collectively, the region is the 7th largest economy in the world and, with more than 600 million people, the 3rd largest market.

100% of originating goods can now be traded customs-free within the ASEAN-6 (Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand), the most developed economies of the association. However, special provisions still apply for Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

The services sector is opening up gradually, eventually allowing ASEAN investors 70% ownership in joint ventures in 128 lines of business. The first sectors to open up are finance, tourism, logistics and health.

Already in 2016, the labor market has been liberalized for professionals and specialists in eight fields, namely medicine, dentistry, nursing, engineering, architecture, natural resources and geographical exploration, and accounting. However those are often still subject to national exams such as language tests.

In general, a high number of national rules and regulations keep setting limits to the theoretically free market, leading to non-tariff barriers and other obstacles. Harmonization of rules and implementation of common standards will probably still take several years. The roadmap ASEAN 2025 sets further targets towards establishing a common market that will resemble the European Union.