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Introduction Note: ASEAN FTAs and External Relations

As we knew, ASEAN was established on 8 August 1967 by the five original member countries (ASEAN-5), namely, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Brunei Darussalam joined in 1984, Vietnam in 1995, Lao PDR and Myanmar in 1997, and Cambodia in 1999. Her purposes, as stated in the ASEAN Declaration, are: (i) to accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region, and (ii) to promote regional peace and stability through abiding respect for justice and the rule of law in the relationship among countries in the region and adherence to the principles of the United Nations Charter.

At present, ASEAN has strived to move toward the ASEAN Community including the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), the ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC), and the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) in 2015. The ultimate goal of ASEAN is to possibly achieve the well being and a good life for her citizens; in view of the ASEAN Economic Community. Regarding the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), the AEC Blueprint envisages the following 4 key characteristics: (a) a single market and production base, (b) a highly competitive economic region, (c) a region of equitable economic development, and (d) a region fully integrated into the global economy, which shall be the target of regional economic integration. Hence, the AEC is going to transform ASEAN into a region with free movement of goods, services, investment, skilled labour, and freer flow of capital with the intentions of increasing ASEAN's competitive edge as a production base in the world market through the elimination, within ASEAN, of tariffs and non-tariff barriers; and attracting more foreign direct investment to ASEAN.

Meanwhile, ASEAN shall also develop friendly relations and mutually beneficial dialogue, cooperation and partnerships with countries. Currently, ASEAN has established the ASEAN - Dialogue Partners Free Trade Agreement or ASEAN +1 FTAs consisting of China, Japan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India. The Free Trade Agreement has covered the liberalisation of Trade in Goods, Trade in Services, and Investment with the purposes of bringing closer regional integration, accessing the economic opportunity, and further expanding and enhancing ASEAN's role in the global economy.