Training a Toothless Tiger - An Impact Assessment of EU Bi-Regional Integration Support to ASEAN

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UNU Institute on Comparative Regional Integration Studies
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UNU-CRIS Working Paper
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This paper argues that EU bi-regional integration support towards ASEAN is only partly effective. EU assistance in the current partnership, the Bandar Seri Begawan Plan of Action 2013-2017, has had a limited impact on ASEAN economic integration. The paper compares two EU aims to the actual policy of deliberately selected ASEAN cases Indonesia and Vietnam and exposes a divergence. Over the period 2010-2015, the two countries adapted their policies to the common goal of regional economic integration only to a limited extent. First, market integration – especially intraregional trade – is not developing according to EU directives. The number of Non-Tariff Measures is growing, hampering trade integration, and investment remains limited. Second, market access also deviates from the EU’s aims. Although the assistance programmes are promising, the ASEAN nations follow integration proposals selectively. The bilateral FTA strategy is working for Vietnam, but is likely to fail for Indonesia. Domestic preferences largely determine the impact and the workability of regional integration support. Vietnam generally follows EU directives and actually opens up towards the region and the world; Indonesia, by contrast, shields its markets. Thus, these cases show that the EU role of a builder of regions is questionable. The EU can assist regional integration elsewhere, but needs to further develop its strategy to do so. Through well-adapted, well-substantiated and locally accepted support, the EU could counsel an adept ASEAN, instead of training a toothless tiger.