The ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) will come into effect Thursday and holds immense potential for the region. However, the full-scale of implementation is far from complete.
The initiative rests on four pillars: integrate the region into a single market and production base; turn Southeast Asian into a highly competitive region; ensure equitable development across ASEAN and to fully integrate ASEAN into the global economy.
A key point of the AEC is it envisages free trade in goods and services, investment liberalization and the free flow of skilled labor.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) comprises of ten member nations, forming the world's third largest population with 622 million people in 2014. The combined 2014 GDP of ASEAN countries makes it the 7th largest economy in the world worth $2.6 trillion, according to the ASEAN Statistics.
Unlike the European Union, the AEC aspires for economic and financial integration without a monetary union or political integration.