by Baxter Jolly
July 31st, 2012

The AEC (ASEAN Economic Community) is upon us. There is a not a single day that I open my morning paper without reading about the readiness of ASEAN states towards this important change that is about to impact the region we live in.

Home to 600 million inhabitants, ASEAN (the Association of South East Asian nations), which was established in 1967, initiated the AEC blueprint in 2007 to establish a single market and production base. Its aim was to create a highly competitive single market that promotes equitable economic development for the 10 member states.

The charter’s objectives are lofty: to promote a single market and production base, create a competitive economic region, promote equitable economic development and to advance integration into the global economy.

In a region with a combined GDP of 1.8 trillion and growth rate of 6% annually, the potentials are ripe to be had. Indonesia, for instance, with its 240 million young inhabitants, is an engine of growth to rival the BRICS nations, home to the world’s fifth-largest user of mobile phones (105% of the population has a mobile phone) and addicted to Twitter.

With this in mind, what does it mean for the world of communications?

As a start, companies will have to evolve the way they manage and promote their reputations within the region. Campaigns might no longer be viable on just a single market basis; there are instances where promotion has to be more pan-regional in outlook. ASEAN itself might have to look at things differently — for example, tourism might offer strategic opportunities for the AEC to promote itself as a single destination in conjunction with a local campaign. This has been done before, albeit in a less concerted way.

We also have to start looking at the industry’s talent in a wider perspective with the ASEAN kaleidoscope in mind. Talent in future will no longer be restricted to just local market knowledge. Exposure of multi-market experience will set peers apart.

Engagement will no longer be a one-market dimension — how will engagement in one market affect another? It will no longer be acceptable to say we will only focus on one market and ignore the other. The intertwining of our lives currently brought on by the digital world of social media and mobile technology will force the way we look at the way we engage in this new AEC paradigm.

Being a child of ASEAN, although I respect our vast differences of being Bruneian, Burmese, Cambodian, Filipino, Indonesia, Laotian, Malaysian, Singaporean, Thai or Vietnamese, the prospect of engaging to bring our world closer is one I look forward to.

Baxter Jolly is Asia Pacific vice-chairman at Weber Shandwick


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