The ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) is decidedly undeterred by the turmoil in the European Union with Britans exit. The 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) bloc may not have received major fanfare, but it capped 12 years of negotiations to forge a labour movement zone in southeast Asia.
Among the legalese lies a series of agreements designed to make it easier for employers in one ASEAN country to hire the citizens of another. These include mutual ‘recognition of qualification’ deals – covering professions such as accountants, doctors, engineers, nurses and architects – which ensure credentials are valid across the bloc, and an agreement on ‘movement of natural persons’, which makes it easier to issue temporary visas or move individuals within countries. The aim is clear: in its ASEAN Community Vision 2025, the bloc agreed to strive for “a more seamless movement of investment, skilled labour, business persons and capital”, which will further erode barriers to the movement of labour.