If the latter did not exist, the summit would have habitually produced a package of documents on economic integration in this part of the world. The conflict among the ten over Myanmar shows that integration, free trade and the like are too closely connected with ideology and other political changes in any region of the world.
This is what has happened at the summit. The Philippines, which is the most peripheral and alien ASEAN member, has warned its partners that if all of them do not compel Myanmar to establish a more democratic regime, its senate may decide not to endorse the ASEAN Charter. The latter has been the key event of the Singapore summit from the very start. It will not become valid if it is not ratified by every single ASEAN member.
The charter is a very interesting document, which has been a subject of tough, albeit covert, debates in the alliance. The debates around the EU Constitution in Europe are largely similar, although their essence is diametrically opposite. The Europeans are striving to approve, through the mechanism of their national referendums and otherwise, principles which curtail the sovereignty of their own countries in favor of the pan-European agencies in Brussels. The ASEAN members are trying to do the opposite - prevent anyone from interfering in their own domestic affairs. Myanmar, which the military kicked back to the 1960s, is no exception. This idea is sealed in the charter.
It is possible to say that the European Union was formed to allow interference in the domestic affairs of its members, at least in the economy, whereas ASEAN was established with the opposite goal. But there is no consensus in either group. Under the Kaczynski twins, Poland was suspected of being America's Trojan horse in Europe, whose role was to prevent the EU from developing too fast. In South-East Asia, this role is being ascribed to the Philippines, although it could have been played by Singapore, if it did not host the summit.
As for the indisputably undemocratic Myanmar, any ASEAN nation could face a similar charge, for instance Thailand (after a recent military coup), or Vietnam, or any other. The majority of ASEAN countries are trying to prevent foreign interference in Myanmar with good reason - they are defending themselves and their right to develop democracy at their own pace rather than import the instant version.
They are doing quite well. ASEAN has lived without a charter for 40 years and can do so in the future. Its economic success is much more important. Free trade agreements with several Pacific countries were second on the summit's agenda. In particular, they were discussed in the ASEAN plus six format. The six include China, South Korea, Japan, India, Australia and New Zealand.
A free trade agreement with Japan may be signed in several weeks and China will be next. The United States, the EU and Australia have imposed sanctions against Myanmar and cannot conduct free trade with the ASEAN countries for this reason.
As a result, goods from ASEAN will have free access to the Chinese market, but not to the U.S. market. This is one more reason to treat China with respect and heed its opinion on Myanmar, which coincides with that of the majority of ASEAN nations. Other foreign powers are losing their influence in the region. Japan is trying to avoid this mistake - Asia, especially China, is crucial for its economic survival. In the meantime, India is confidently sitting on the two chairs, dragging out the talks because of its stubborn position on agricultural tariffs.
It is hard to predict how many times the United States and the EU will try to impose instant democracy by using sanctions and thus commit such mini-suicides in various parts of the world - probably until they realize that this ideology is an ossified dogma that should be discarded.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.