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Will the Forthcoming ASEAN Free Trade Association Become a Major U.S. Export/Import Partner?

December 19th, 2013 | by Morris Beschloss | Comments

In the almost 50 years since its founding, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations has grown into a major export potential for the U.S.

While the top sphere of the U.S. gross domestic product export/import sector has concentrated on such economic giants as China, Japan, and India, only peripheral attention has been paid to the geopolitical/economic trade union, encompassing Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. This is leading to an ASEAN economic community (AEC), which will create a single economic market zone on January 1, 2016.

Such a move will allow the free flow of goods, services and professional activity within these nations, which are currently becoming the centerpiece of Southeast Asian hyper-development. While containing 620 million people and a combined gross domestic product of goods and services of $2.2 trillion, U.S. foreign direct investment currently totals $170 billion, while Asian members import $100 billion worth of American goods and services annually.

When considering the growing intensity of the world’s most recently promising developmental growth segment, this could become a major trading partner, generating substantial export revenues and formidable employment growth to support such positive activities.

Key to this happening sooner than later is completion of the slow-moving evolution toward a trans-Pacific partnership, and the subsequent greater activity between the U.S. and the individual national members comprising this dynamic combination of growth economies.

Even more than such giants as Brazil, China, India and South Africa, which comprise much larger total economies, the ASEAN nations have embraced middle class professionalism, and independent growth business, with less government interference, than the more high profile developing world leaders. Due to the fact that the ASEAN block doesn’t get the big business attention of the world’s more inviting large super industries, it hardly receives major media attention.

It’s still questionable whether the Obama Administration, and the U.S. private sector will give the ASEAN nations the focus it deserves before its “coming out” as a unit in 2016.

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