Regionalization is important to all the countries in Southeast Asia. ASEAN, formed in 1967, now consists of Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Brunei, and Vietnam. The ASEAN region covers a total land area of 1.2 million square miles and a growing and youthful population of 425 million people. The region has an abundance of natural resources, particularly land, petroleum, and minerals. It is one of the fastest-growing economic regions in the world and has become a center for manufacturing excellence for many multinational corporations (MNCs) around the world. It is expected to include Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia in the near future. The total ASEAN population will then exceed 500 million. In the ASEAN founding declaration, members affirmed their interest in promoting economic growth, social progress, and cultural development among themselves to promote peace and stability. Functionally, the association is working as a clearing house for agreements to reduce internal barriers to trade and to standardize tariffs. ASEAN has provided preferential treatment in unilateral trade relations among member nations by enhancing each nation's capability to leverage technologies that it has "acquired" by allowing the free flow of capital and knowledge through free trade. The U.S. Department of Commerce added ASEAN to its "emerging markets" list in recognition of the significance to the U.S. economy of U.S. exports to ASEAN. The companies visited by the WTEC study team typically had operations in other ASEAN countries. As Table 4.2 shows, contract manufacturers had operations in a number of countries. (Solectron has recently announced plans to build operations in China.)

Table 4.2
Operations of Contract Manufacturers in Other Asian Countries

Y = yes

Published: May 1997; WTEC Hyper-Librarian