With the Doha Round of WTO trade policy negotiations suspended, a logical question is what happens next. The Economic Ministers of the ten members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia gave a clear answer by committing to achieving internal free trade by 2015 rather than the earlier target of 2020. This is partly in response to the growing economic power of their two big neighbors, China and India. Southeast Asia is a likely place for strong economic growth for the foreseeable future, and the free trade actions by the ASEAN Economic Ministers explain why that is true.

ASEAN was created in 1967 with Indonesia, मलेशिया, फिलीपींस, सिंगापुर, and Thailand. Brunei joined in 1984, followed by Vietnam in 1995, Laos and Myanmar in 1997, and Cambodia in 1999. The original five plus Brunei are advanced developing countries, while the other four are less developed. The population of the ten countries is 560 दस लाख, with GDP of $850 प्रति वर्ष एक अरब ($1,500 प्रति व्यक्ति), merchandise exports of $625 billion per year and imports of $540 प्रति वर्ष एक अरब. The countries have a good mix of low skill, low wage factory workers and higher skilled laborers and professionals.

Increased economic integration was an original goal of ASEAN. According to information on their website, in the early 1970s intra-ASEAN trade accounted for 12-15 percent of members trade. Today about 25 percent of their total trade is intra-ASEAN. The five original countries plus Brunei have fully implemented the Agreement on the Common Effective Preferential Tariff of the ASEAN Free Trade Area that has reduced tariffs to an average of 3.8 प्रतिशत. They have tackled trade in services, one of the hardest issues to address. The economic ministers committed to the 2015 deadline for the free flow of all services, including skilled labor and professionals. They also committed to work on trade facilitation to reduce the cost of paperwork and time delays. Customs revisions have reduced the number of tariff-eligible items by 2,500 सेवा 8,300. Despite this progress, harmonizing domestic trade laws will be a formidable task since the countries have a history of tight control of key industries like banking and transportation.

Economic integration efforts of the past 40 years have paid off. Foreign direct investment (FDI) in the ASEAN countries was $38 अरब में 2005, यूपी 48 से प्रतिशत 2004. तुलना के लिए, Chinas FDI in 2005 था $53 एक अरब.

The members of ASEAN are important to U.S. कृषि. जो अपने 560 million people account for over 8 percent of the worlds population. With a commitment to intra-ASEAN free trade and international competitiveness in goods and services, they will have increasing incomes in the years ahead. अमेरिका. already has a free trade agreement with Singapore and is negotiating with Thailand and Malaysia. The Enterprise for ASEAN Initiative seeks to further strengthen U.S. trade and investment relationships.

In calendar year 2005 अमेरिका. had a negative agricultural trade balance with the ASEAN countries with exports of $3.3 billion and imports of $4.5 एक अरब, but that is skewed by $2.8 billion of imports of products that are not produced in the U.S. These included $1.4 billion of rubber and allied products, $600 million of tropical oils and $400 million of cocoa beans, paste and butter. With these items excluded, यू.एस. agricultural exports to the ASEAN countries exceeded imports by $1.6 एक अरब.

Soybeans and products led the list for U.S. agricultural exports in 2005 पर $613 million dollars, followed closely by cotton at $534 दस लाख. Wheat exports were $405 दस लाख. Fruits and vegetables and products exports totaled $369 दस लाख. Dairy product exports were $265 दस लाख, and feeds and fodder exports other than coarse grains were $214 दस लाख. Agricultural trade is a two way street with the ASEAN countries. While exports of fruits and vegetables and products from the U.S. totaled $369 दस लाख में 2005, imports were $587 दस लाख. Rice exports were $22 लाख जबकि आयात थे $153 दस लाख. Tree nut exports were $26 लाख जबकि आयात थे $235 दस लाख.

Current agricultural trade is an indication of what could happen in the future. Coarse grain exports (ज्यादातर मकई) by the U.S. केवल थे $16 दस लाख में 2005 and have not been higher than $64 million per year since 2001. If China stops exporting corn and ASEAN economies continue to grow, a market for U.S. corn could develop. Poultry meat exports were $33 दस लाख में 2005 and were not higher than $41 million per year over the last five years. Red meat exports were $60 दस लाख में 2005, the highest in recent years, but insignificant given a population of 560 लाख लोग.

अमेरिका. is not the only country that recognizes the market growth potential of the ASEAN countries. This week Japan proposed a 16 nation free trade area including itself, चीन, भारत, ऑस्ट्रेलिया, दक्षिण कोरिया, New Zealand and the ten ASEAN countries.

The Economic Ministers also called for resumption of the Doha Round of WTO talks, saying, As a group of developing countries with open economies, ASEAN attaches great importance to the Doha negotiations in contributing towards strengthening the multilateral trading system. It is also critical to the continuing economic growth and development of our Member countries.

While the EU and some developing countries drag their feet at the Doha Round negotiations, the ASEAN countries know that a freer flow of goods and services among the ten countries and with the rest of world is essential for economic growth and improvements in the standard of living for their citizens. Achieving that freer flow of resources will not be easy, but they have set a standard for the rest of the world to match or exceed.