The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) looks set to declare a unified common market by December 31, 2015. This concept is derived from the European Union style of economic integration which experts say will be difficult to achieve. Efforts are being made to reduce trade barriers and open floodgates for easy investments as well as the free flow of goods, services, products and skilled labour across nations. Meanwhile, top leaders of nations like Indonesia and Malaysia in recent weeks have been pushing for the unification of time zone as opposed to the current system of three different zones spanning over the ASEAN region.

A single time zone would reduce the technicalities of doing business within the southeast Asian region and would help in coordinated opening and closing time for stock markets and banks promoting overall inclusive growth among the southeast Asian nations.

Some experts have serious doubts about the formation and success of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) as it seeks to unify economies who are developing and evolving at vastly different rates and are on different stages of progress as per there gross domestic products. Other than this ASEAN nations have distinct cultures, values, languages, currencies and a history of political mistrust.

Yet many see an upcoming power house in the making with a population of around 625 million which is much more larger than the European Union or North America being the third largest labour resource in the world only behind China and India and a ever expanding consumer class. ASEAN already is referred to as Asia’s third pillar of growth and development after China and India.

When taken together as an integrated regional economic force, the member states of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) form the World’s seventh largest economy. Which is behind the US, China, Japan, Germany, France and the United Kingdom and lies ahead of India, Brazil and Russia.

The formation of AEC marks a major milestone in the development and progress of southeast asian nations. As it will open up new opportunities for trade and business in this part of the world by providing a platform for economic liberalization but many leading economists see the AEC as nothing but a paper tiger and point to obstacles in unifying the various economies like economic nationalism and resistance to foreign-owned industries in the member countries like Indonesia and South China Sea maritime disputes that could create an unhealthy environment and hamper regional cooperation.

The ASEAN Economic Community is largely about business participation and economic cooperation in this singular market but all the statistical surveys and analysis done till now suggests low awareness and even lower preparedness. Planned efforts are required to be made to integrate the concept of ASEAN nations and to make the ASEAN Economic Community united under a single time zone.

Eventually if efforts are made in the right direction ASEAN may integrate into a truly border less economic community united by a single time zone and a unified approach of holistic development for all the member nations of the community.

Important facts about the ASEAN Community:

The ASEAN refers to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. It was established on August 8, 1967 in Bangkok under the pact known as the Bangkok declaration. Its charter was released on December 16, 2008.

The working language of ASEAN is English. It has 10 member states and 2 observers. The member states are listed as Brunei,Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Phillippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

The two observers currently are Timor- Leste and Papua New Guinea.The headquarters of the organization are situated in Manila, Philippiness and the motto of ASEAN Community is “One Vision, One Identity, One Community.”