While the high-performing Asian economies and the six oldest ASEAN countries have invested heavily in public primary and secondary education, higher education has been largely left to the private sector. [179] Higher education in Southeast Asia is generally relatively low in terms of technological capabilities and integration, such as thought systems.B. The governments of Singapore and Malaysia are heavily focused on innovation, while the rest of the region is lagging behind. [180] In most cases, universities focus on teaching and service to government, not on university research. Universities, both in terms of salaries and research infrastructure (libraries, laboratories), are generally poorly supported financially. In addition, regional academic journals cater to their local audiences and respond less to international standards, making general or regional calibration more difficult. [181] Governments have a strong interest in investing in education and other aspects of human capital infrastructure, particularly in the rapidly developing countries of the region. In the short term, capital expenditures directly support aggregate demand and growth. In the longer term, investments in physical infrastructure, productivity gains and the provision of education and health services determine the potential for growth. [182] In addition to the China-India Free Trade Agreement, ASEAN also has a joint free trade agreement with Australia and New Zealand, known as AANZFTA. The agreement, which will also be phased in, has eliminated tariffs on 67% of all products traded between regions and will be extended to 96% of all products by 2020. This is the first time ASEAN has entered into negotiations on a free trade agreement covering all sectors, including goods, services, investment and intellectual property rights, making it the most comprehensive trade agreement ever negotiated by ASEAN. For more details on this agreement, click here.

Efforts to close the development gap and expand trade among ASEAN members are essential elements of the political debate. According to a 2008 research mandate published by the World Bank as part of its “Trade Costs and Relief” project,[11] ASEAN members have the potential to reap significant benefits from investment in new trade facilitation reforms, as a result of the important customs reform already implemented by the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement.