A compromise by Thailand and the Philippines over rice tariffs has led to new optimism that ASEAN can indeed establish a regional Free Trade Area by 2015. But domestic interests, development gaps and the Myanmar issue still present obstacles.

Larger economies such as the USA and European Union now prefer to negotiate trade agreements with individual countries, rather than the bloc as a whole. A region-wide Free Trade Agreement with China came into effect on 1 January 2010, but is now being renegotiated with ASEAN’s largest economy Indonesia, after pressure from domestic industries.

Economic gaps are obvious between member states such as Singapore and Laos. A successful Free Trade Area would also necessitate improvements in transport and financial infrastructure across borders, to ensure the free movement of capital, goods and people.

article & source: Business World