Although EU and ASEAN have different culture and history, they have similarities in creating peace and stability in the regions. ASEAN was formed in 1967 with the spirit of creating peace, security and stability in the region to protect their independence from two dominating superpowers (the Soviet Union and the U.S.).
ASEAN succeeded the two previous organizations ASA (the Association of Southeast Asia) and MALAPHINDO (Malaysia, Philippine and Indonesia) and its formation was strongly influenced by both international and regional circumstances (Tripathi, 2015).
While in the other hand, the European countries were traumatized by the two World Wars and frightened that the war could happen in the future. Therefore, European countries begin to unite economically through European Coal and Steel Community (EEC) also known as ‘Common Market’ in 1957 on the treaty of Rome.
After going through a long process of economic integration, the establishment of the EU was finalized on the treaty of European Union widely known as ‘the Maastricht Treaty’ in 1993.
Over the years, the EU and ASEAN had been transformed into economic cooperation and politic. The implementation of economic integration in both organizations had an ambitious mission for prosperities. Maintaining the initial plan when EEC was initiated, EU since its establishment started an economic integration called ‘Single Market’ where they have one territory free from various costs.
A single market strives to remove so-called “non-tariff barriers” – different rules on packaging, safety and standards and many other others are abolished and the same rules and regulations apply across the area (Bloom, 2017).
This is to stimulate the competitiveness and trade, also to improve the quality as well as to cut off the selling price. With the same purpose, ASEAN leaders initiated ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (AFTA), and then followed by the commitment of establishing ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by 2015 and beyond.
ASEAN has set its objectives of building an AEC that is premised on the free flow of goods, services, investment and skilled laborer and free flows of capital in order to move towards a single market (Sermcheep and Chirathivat, 2015).
However, there have been challenges since the implementation of the economic integration in both regions. For instance, some country members raised the issue of dual quality product in EU, where the same brands deliver food in different standards to other EU countries.
A response was seriously taken for further investigation and as a result, the European Parliament approved the EU consumer protection rules on 17 April 2019. The EU had set a comprehensive mechanism and rules to response such issue, where immediate action can be taken to protect the right of consumers in the region.
In the other hand, country members in ASEAN have to struggle in integrating the AEC into the domestic economic situation to make sure that the AEC will have no significant impact to the current economic structure. The economic integration in ASEAN indeed has to go through serious consideration because many issues need to be discussed before allowing the new system operated in the region.
As a reflection, in 2016, the AEC intra-trade stands at only 25% compared to 64% in EU (Thi Ha, Thu Zar, Basu Das and Chalermpalanupad, 2016) – which is showing a slow progress in ASEAN’s trade values. Looking at the number above, ASEAN must be considered as a future economic potential for EU due to the fact that today Asian market is the destination for almost one-third of EU exports (Casarini, 2013).
Furthermore, the development of these two regional organizations could be benefited for its members, where they can have more opportunities in shaping a strategic bilateral partnership on economic integration by adjusting policy in both regions.
However, the ASEAN has a long way to go, as it requires a strong commitment of each country members to adopt the similar concept of economic integration and to intensify more communication with EU how to manage an ideal mechanism according to ASEAN’s character.
Several meetings and discussions have been carried out between EU and ASEAN as a response to the fast-growing economic globalization. The EU has now started supporting ASEAN to achieve the organizational target. In early 2019, the ASEAN and EU leaders had a meeting in Brussels to discuss enhancing cooperation in various sectors; politic, socio-economy and security agenda (Jakarta Now, 2019).
The future of both regional organizations will likely be successful; if they put greater efforts into developing domestic agreement among country members, although, in this case the EU and ASEAN are having different economic interest.