Former Indonesian consul general to Davao City Berlian Napitupulu aptly summarized it. Despite the forging of linkages between the member-countries of the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA), many products from his country were sold in the Philippines through other third countries instead of directly.
This became the reason for him to launch trade fairs and business-to-business meetings between Indonesian and Philippine investors as he wanted that the business sectors of both sides to come up with joint venture arrangements that would become beneficial to both of them.
The sub-regional group turned 25 years old on March 24 and that based on the report from its leaders, which was contained in the joint statement released Monday after their meeting in Thailand, merchandise trading in 2017 hit a 21.5% growth, while tourism reached 88.2 million and foreign investments were at $ 20 billion.
However, the statement did not explain whether the numbers were aggregates – total production of each of the areas in the sub-region and not a result of the sub-region’s efforts – so it would be hard to gauge the impact that it has on each of the economies and the four economies as a whole.
But one thing is sure: they have been grappling with the difficulty in harmonizing their policies which is very much necessary both for intra-trade and inter-trade activities.
It would be better to look back and analyze how much of the challenges are addressed and how much must immediately be addressed moving forward.
This is important to ensure that everyone benefits from the initiative and that new steps be taken to improve the linkages.