Intellectual property and development: the ASEAN story

Author:Evan P. Garcia
Position:Permanent Representative of the Philippines* to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva

From the outset, member states of ASEAN have been diverse in language and culture, strengthened nevertheless by different but shared histories and a common desire to improve the lives of their people. Back in 1967, the world was riding on the promise of a relatively young United Nations forged from the tragedy of the Second World War. And while the conflicts of a bipolar world played out, casting a cloud of uncertainty across the globe, ASEAN began carving a path of collaboration to secure its future. At that time, the combined GDP of ASEAN was just USD 23.7 billion, political institutions were still evolving and infrastructure was underdeveloped. The birth of ASEAN was indeed a defining moment, born of the courage and foresight of the region’s leaders.

The membership of Brunei Darussalam in 1984, Viet Nam in 1995, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Myanmar in 1997 and Cambodia in 1999 completed the organization and further consolidated its institutions. Economic integration, anchored by extensive dialogue and cooperation in the political-security and socio-cultural fields, continued to galvanize relations within ASEAN and between its member states and other major economies in the region.

Such integration was further strengthened with the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015. The Community had by then grown to a population of 629 million with a combined GDP of some USD 2.4 trillion, making it the sixth largest economy in the world and the third largest in Asia. In 2015, ASEAN trade also rose to USD 2.3 trillion, the fourth largest share in the world after China, the United States and Germany. Meanwhile, foreign direct investment totaled USD 121 billion, accounting for 7 percent of global inflows.

This remarkable growth did not come about by chance. Rather, it was the result of the systematic implementation of comprehensive measures in support of economic integration, including harmonized procedures on customs, immigration and trade. It was also thanks to a strategy that clearly acknowledged the varying levels of development of member countries and that actively sought to create opportunities for less-developed members to catch up. At a time when the world is increasingly toying with protectionism, ASEAN continues to shine a bright light on economic integration, inclusion and openness.

Intellectual property for development

ASEAN has identified intellectual property (IP) as a fundamental element of the ASEAN Economic...

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