MANILA-- Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states gathered here Saturday for the 30th ASEAN summit, at a time when the regional bloc is soon to celebrate its 50th anniversary.
Fifty years ago, five original members of ASEAN, namely, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines, signed a declaration in Bangkok that gave birth to ASEAN.
In Bangkok, where the founding declaration was signed, restaurant Thip Samai bears witness to the boom that globalization has brought to Thailand's tourism industry.
"There was only Thai characters on our poster in the beginning, as there were only local customers then. Now we also have English, Chinese, Japanese and Korean languages. We can say this is a sort of trace left by globalization," said shop owner of Thip Samai, who only gave her name as Na.
In its 50 years of development, ASEAN has actively embraced globalization and at the same time pushed forward regional integration.
The booming tourism industry of Thailand, the growing fruit export sector of the Philippines, and Singapore's fast development in financial and shipping services, are evidence of ASEAN countries' active participation in the globalization process.
With Brunei joining the regional bloc in 1984, Vietnam in 1995, Laos and Myanmar in 1997, and Cambodia in 1999, ASEAN is now a 10-member organization with a combined population of around 630 million, a combined GDP of up to around USD 2.5 trillion. ASEAN, as a whole, ranks the world's seventh largest economy.
ASEAN members have been continuously pushing for the integration of the region in such areas as infrastructure connectivity, transportation, human exchanges and trade.
Zhang Xuegang, deputy director of the Institute for South Asia, Southeast Asia and Oceania Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told Xinhua that ASEAN has made remarkable achievements in forging ahead with regional integration over the last 50 years.
Through this process, ASEAN members have evolved from relatively weak and poor states at the end of World War II to a significant regional force collectively and one of the world's stars in terms of economic growth, he noted.
In 1992, the idea of a free trade area among ASEAN was raised. ASEAN leaders expected to push forward cooperation and economic integration through trade liberalization to enhance the overall strength of the bloc.
At the end of 2015, the ASEAN Community was officially established, comprising three pillars including the ASEAN Political-Security Community, the ASEAN Economic Community and the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community.
However, serious matters such as harmonization of standards, free movement of labor, and the financial industry's access to markets in the region have restricted ASEAN's pursuit of higher level integration.
With the Manila summit themed "Partnering for Change, Engaging the World," the 50-year-old bloc is taking solid steps toward becoming a model of regionalism and a global player.
Source: Philippines News Agency