"ASEAN is strongly supported by China," says Professor Fariborz Moshirian from the UNSW Business School.  "However, ASEAN plus 3, which is Japan, South Korea and China, could also be another major trading block that should work closely for free trade and investment activities in the region."

Preparations for the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit are underway in the Philippines. Leaders from Asian nations will debate the theme of this year's summit of "inclusive, innovation-led" growth.

Key outcomes from the previous ASEAN meeting had three strategic measures: increasing trade and investment, integrating micro, small and medium-sized enterprises into global value chains, and developing an innovation-driven economy.

"There are some more issues with respect to what is called ASEAN plus 6, namely the three plus Australia, New Zealand and India," he says. "There are many lessons to be learnt from the EU and the way financial and economic issues have been integrated and challenged. Australia is able to play an important role in the process of economic, financial integration and peace and security in the region."

"The US is not involved in the regional trading block however the US and Russia are keen to be closer to the Asian countries via other economic fora in the region for trade and investment," says Professor Fariborz Moshirian, Director of the Institute of Global Finance at UNSW.

When the leaders gather they will celebrate "Asean@50"— testimony to the block's endurance and durability as the longest-running regional grouping of developing countries in the world, and ASEAN could reflect on its priority for the next 5 to 50 years.

"This could include how to reduce the income gap amongst its members and within the member countries," he says. "How to embrace technology and raise the living standards of its people. How to work with China, Japan and South Korea and also have open trading arrangements with Australia, India  and New Zealand."

"There is also the thorny issue of how to ensure tension in South China Sea could be contained, and also work with both the US and China for the regional stability," he adds.

Professor Moshirian can discuss the implications of the challenge facing ASEAN ahead of the summit.

For further comment call Fariborz Moshirian on 02 9385 5859, or Email f.moshirian@unsw.edu.au

 Media contact: Julian Lorkin: 02 9385 9887