As such, it is more crucial than ever for ASEAN’s policymakers to strategize their post-pandemic recovery, a key factor of which would be by furthering economic integration through trade and investments. Two crucial regional frameworks that could facilitate this include the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) as well as the Comprehensive Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). Both mega-trade deals, which build upon previously signed bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements between their signatory states, would help anchor ASEAN Centrality through the opening up of domestic and regional markets for further trade and investment integration.
At a time when the merits of globalization are increasingly coming under scrutiny and populism on the rise, what would more economic openness mean for the average Southeast Asian citizen? What does each agreement bring to the table in terms of their respective opportunities and responsibilities? What are the main hurdles to ASEAN Member States ratifying these agreements, and how should ASEAN policymakers overcome public concerns and entrenched interests?