by Lavaniah KPS Mohan
When it comes to regional blocs, Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is a dark horse that no one expects to be in the running for a booming economy. A political and economic organization of ten countries in Southeast Asia, ASEAN would be the 7th largest economy in the world with a $2.3 trillion of combined GDP if it was a single country. Although the 2015 ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) has been successful in eliminating 99.65% of tariff lines non-tariff barriers remain high among ASEAN countries. The role of CARI is to conduct research and help focus the private sector’s interest towards an integrated and competitive ASEAN economy.
In my 3 months experience at CARI’s Research and Content Development team I had the privilege of observing first hand on how much efforts are being put to realize the AEC. First of all, a huge part of my job is to help organize and coordinate the ASEAN Business Club Forum 2014 which was held in Singapore on September 7-9. This forum serves to identify bottlenecks and barriers hindering free trade in ASEAN on a sector by sector basis. Each industry champions or leaders and private sector stakeholders were brought together for a series of roundtables addressing specific issues that they are facing. The forum is steered by the leadership of some of the most influential corporate figures across various sectors comprising leading ASEAN and global organizations such as Air Asia, CIMB Group, Ayala Corporation, Bangkok Bank, Northstar Group, Lippo Group, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Rolls Royce, GE and many more. With the help of our research partners whom I had the pleasure of working with such as Accenture, Bain & Co., Ernst & Young and many more a sector based research paper will be put together based on these roundtables to be distributed to policymakers in ASEAN.
I also had the opportunity to coordinate and participate in a CARI Roundtable with US ASEAN Senior Advisor H.E. Larry Dinger. The theme for discussion was the US-ASEAN partnership, challenges facing US-ASEAN relations and how the relationship could be improved. In the context of US-ASEAN partnership, trade agreements and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) were discussed. In addition to the TPP, the US-ASEAN Expanded Economic Engagement (E3) was highlighted during the discussions. Some of the issues that the US and ASEAN were cooperating on like human trafficking and climate change were brought up in the discussions.
Besides that, the interns at CARI were given the privilege to organize a CIMB Young Leaders ASEAN Summit 2014 in collaboration with CIMB Foundation entirely by their own efforts. This summit was modeled after the actual ASEAN summit and 50 undergraduate students from all the 10 ASEAN countries participated in this event. I was also in charge of the content and design of our weekly publication called CARI Captures. CARI Captures serves to highlight important issues around ASEAN in a concise form for people on-the-go.
In a nutshell, my internship experience in CARI taught me a lot about ASEAN that I wouldn’t have known otherwise.