The glory days of the 'Asian tigers' are well and truly over. Western investors and politicans are in a rush to embrace the BRIC economies (Brazil, Russia, India and China), as the asian tigers lose their appeal. Victor Mallet explains in today's Financial Times that Asia's former tigers are moving towards irrelevance how weak values and slow progress in economic liberalisation have made Asean less than the sum of its parts. The European Community of the East this is not:
An organisation of 10 countries, with a population of 500m and the economic weight to match, is in danger of becoming a diplomatic irrelevance as it approaches the 40th anniversary of its founding next year.
...Yet Asean remains less than the sum of its disparate parts - its members include democratic, Muslim Indonesia; the fast-growing economy of Vietnam; and the wealthy city-state of Singapore; as well as Burma, the Brunei sultanate, Cambodia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.
Among this year's failures, Asean made no headway in persuading Burma to end the junta's egregious human rights abuses. Nor did the ARF, known from its acronym and its inactivity as "the dog that doesn't bark", seriously rebuke North Korea for its recent missile launches orits nuclear weapons programmes.
Even in seeking to liberalise regional trade and investment in goods and services, Asean seems to have run out of steam. The once tigerish economies of Malaysia and Thailand are growing at less than 6 per cent a year - slower than those of Ghana and Botswana.
It has been uncomfortable for nations that were the toast of bankers and investors in the 1990s to find themselves so quickly eclipsed by China and India. If they want to keep attracting performances from the Lavrovs and Rices of this world and simultaneously engage in the serious business of regional diplomacy, Asean leaders need to develop a clear idea of how they see the world and how they want to improve it.