Home » Public opinion on the formation of the ASEAN economic community: An exploratory study in three ASEAN countries

Public opinion on the formation of the ASEAN economic community: An exploratory study in three ASEAN countries

Vol. 11, No. 1 (2015), 85–114


In 1997, 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states envisaged an ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) with free flows of goods, services and investments, and freer flows of capital features. In contrast to the process of establishing economic integration in the European Union, the process in ASEAN has never directly engaged the public. This study aims to gauge public opinion on the AEC through a survey research conducted in 11 major cities in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. It investigates the extent of public attitudes and aspirations in four dimensions—support, commitment, perceived benefits and aspiration—among the public in the three countries. Survey results show that the attitudes of the public were positive, but there were differences in the extent of support, commitment and perceived benefits. The study also finds that they seem to aspire for a different kind of integration from the European format of regional integration. In addition, comparison statistics showed that the Malaysian and Indonesian public exhibited more positive attitude and higher aspiration for economic integration. The finding implies that the ASEAN Secretariat—together with national governments—needs to formulate effective strategies to maintain positive attitudes and support for the integration initiatives. It further suggests that ASEAN should continuously monitor public opinion on the region’s economic integration and develop strategies for fostering and maintaining good support from the public for further deepening the economic integration process.

Author’s bio

Guido Benny is a senior lecturer at the School of History, Politics, and Strategy, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), Malaysia. After receiving his PhD in Strategy and Security in the similar school, he conducted his postdoctoral study at the Institute for Malaysian and International Studies (IKMAS), UKM from 2013 to 2014. His research interests include regionalism, ASEAN, public opinions and participation in regional integration, and economic development in Southeast and Northeast Asia. He has written some chapters in books and many articles in internationally refereed journals. Some of his publications include “Does public opinion count? Knowledge and support for an ASEAN Community in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore,” International Relations of the Asia-Pacific, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 3: 399–423 and “Is ASEAN Community Achievable? A Public Perception Analysis in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore on the Perceived Obstacles for a Regional Community,” Asian Survey, 2012, Vol. 52, No. 6: 1043–1066 (both articles are co-authored with Ravichandran Moorthy). He can be contacted at guidobenny@gmail.com and guidobenny@ukm.edu.my.

Tham Siew Yean is a Professor as well as the Deputy-Director at the Institute for Malaysian and International Studies (IKMAS), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. She is an economist with research interests in international trade, foreign direct investment and regional integration. She has worked as a consultant for several national and international agencies, including the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and the Asian Development Bank Institute. Some of her publications include, “Re-examining the Impact of the ACFTA on ASEAN’s Exports of Manufactured Goods to China,” Asian Economic Papers, Fall 2014, Vol. 13, No. 3: 63–82 (co-authored with Andrew Kam Jia Yi). She can be contacted at tham@ukm.edu.my and tham.siewyean@gmail.com.

Rashila Ramli is Professor of Political Science and  the Director at the Institute for Malaysian and International Studies (IKMAS), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. Her research interest is on non traditional security issues, gender and politics, and global governance.  She has published on women’s political participation in Asia Pacific, and Peace and Human Security in Asia Pacific.  Dr. Rashila is also the President of the Malaysian Social Science Association (PSSM) and Regional Council member of the Asia Pacific Forum for Women Law and Development (APWLD). She can be contacted atrashila@ukm.edu.my


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