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ASEAN : political and diplomatic role towards the new international economic order


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de Zoysa, Mahadura Osweled A 1980 , 'ASEAN : political and diplomatic role towards the new international economic order', Research Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) was
established in 1967, with the signing of the Bangkok Declaration
(ASEAN Declaration) by Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines,
Singapore and Thailand. When ASEAN was established, it was conventional
wisdom that the new organization would be short-lived and
many observers thought that ASEAN would probably be destroyed by
disputes between the member countries. Despite these early speculations
on its long-term viability, ASEAN has gradually grown as
an important regional grouping, with increased recognition from the
outside world, and has played a very significant role in the promotion
of regional co-operation in political and economic affairs
during the last twelve years.
The promotion of regional economic co-operation was the principal
objective of ASEAN at its founding in 1967. However, an
analysis of the factors accounting for the formation of ASEAN suggests
that it was not established primarily as a vehicle for
economic development in the member countries. The five countries
grouped themselves together in 1967 mainly for political and security
reasons. The political objectives of the five countries were twofold.
The first objective was to build up regional political cohesion
as a counter-weight to the great powers who appeared to be
competing with each other in regional political affairs. The
second objective was to strengthen the national stability of the
five countries in the face of the growing communist threat which
was perceived to be of two kinds - an internal threat from communist
subversion and insurgency and an external threat from China.
However, because of the sensitive nature of international and
regional political environment, ASEAN was initially formally limited
to activities such as the promotion of regional co-operation in
economic, social, cultural, educational, scientific and administrative
fields. These were areas of a non-controversial nature.
The early 1970's marked the beginning of a new era in the
Southeast Asian political environment. The U.S.A. was gradually
withdrawing from the Vietnam war while developing friendly relations
with China. The relations between the U.S.A. and the Soviet Union
had also entered into a new era and the word 'detente' became a
watchword in the Soviet-American relations. The Great Cultural
Revolution in China came to an end and China appeared to have changed
its aggressive policy towards the ASEAN countries since the end of
the Cultural Revolution. The Indo-Chinese war came to an end in
1975 with the fall of South Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos into the
communist •hands and the new Indo-Chinese communist states were predominantly
occupied with the re-construction of their economies.
All these factors combined to bring a relatively stable political
environment into Southeast Asia in the mid-1970's at least for a
short period.
These political developments have had a profound impact on
ASEAN. In particular, the changing attitudes of China towards ASEAN
countries have considerably reduced the fear of external communist
threat to them. That, in turn, has caused the ASEAN countries to
place greater emphasis on internal political stability. As a consequence,
such issues as economic development and regional economic
co-operation have begun to gradually overshadow the previous
regional preoccupation with security and defence. The ASEAN has
realised that economic and social progress in the member countries
is the best weapon to combat internal communist subversion and
As ASEAN economies are export-led economies, international
trade plays an important role in the economic development of these
countries. Except in the case of Singapore, the economies of the
ASEAN countries are based on agriculture and mining industry. They
produce raw materials and commodities which have been the main
sources of foreign exchange for these countries. In recent years,
most of the international commodity markets have been characterised
by such features as deteriorating terms of trade, fluctuating prices
and demand and increased use of substitution in consumer countries.
The instability in the commodity markets has resulted in the instability
of export earnings which in turn has considerably weakened the
economic development of the ASEAN countries in recent years. One
adverse consequence of this heavy dependency on the export of primary
products has been the growing international indebtedness of
the ASEAN countries as their export earnings have always been
exceeded by their import expenditures.
The recent efforts of the ASEAN countries to diversify exports
through a process of industrialization have been weakened by a
number of factors of which the marketing of manufactured products
is the most important. The internal markets of the ASEAN countries
cannot provide adequate outlets for goods manufactured in these
countries due to the low level of the purchasing power of the people.

Item Type: Thesis - Research Master
Authors/Creators:de Zoysa, Mahadura Osweled A
Keywords: ASEAN, Economic development
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright 1980 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright
owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We
would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

Additional Information:

Thesis (M.A.)--University of Tasmania, 1981. Bibliography: l. 198-205

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