Bernardo M. Villegas
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ASEAN Leaders for Asian Century

           The diversity of cultures, religions, political systems and levels of development among the ten ASEAN nations can easily lead to skepticism about the viability of the ASEAN Economic Community.  In the same way that there were Euroskeptics when the process of the European union began in the middle of the last century, there are enough pessimistic forecasts about the chances of success of the ASEAN Economic Community that will be given another boost in 2015 when tariffs on all traded goods drop to zero among the ten member nations of the AEC.  The proof of the pudding is in the eating, however.  Despite the almost insurmountable obstacles to the European Union,  the evidence is that by the end of the last century, the EEC as an economic union reached such a high level of economic development that it was able to challenge the two other world powers then--the US and Japan--for economic supremacy.  There was no question that the last century saw a tripolar world in the global economy.  The amazing thing about this phenomenon was that countries that waged the fiercest wars against one another in World War I and World War II overcame their animosity towards one another for the sake of the economic gains they foresaw in fostering closer economic relations.

          In contrast, the ten member nations of the ASEAN have never been at war with one another in modern times. Most of them have common experiences of resisting imperial forces.  With the exception of the small countries, Singapore and Brunei, they  generally face  similar stages of economic development and, therefore, perceive the advantages of the economies of scale  provided by a larger market reach.  In the last ten years, their trade with one another has increased at a faster rate than their trade with the rest of the world.  Despite the continuing dangers of a protectionist mindset among their leaders, there is a high probability that the AEC will become the third economic force in the Asian century that will challenge in economic supremacy the two economic giants,

China and India, during the so-called Asian Century.

          The private business sector in these ten countries must undertake a formidable task:  develop in the next ten to twenty years a new breed of leaders who will know how to capitalize on the opportunities of a larger regional market.  To meet this challenge, they can learn from the experiences of the European Economic Community (EEC).  With this view, the First Metro Investment Corporation is bringing to Manila one of the most experienced management educators in Europe to talk about "Developing Leaders for the Asian Century" in  a CEO Forum next January 21, 2014.  The resource person, Dr. Carlos Cavalle, headed one of the most prestigious business schools in the world today, the IESE Business School in Barcelona, Spain, for a record period of 17 years, from

1984 to 2001 when the EEC was at the summit of its economic prosperity.  Dr. Cavalle  is currently dean emeritus of IESE Business School and professor in the department of general management.  His areas of specialization include executive education, strategic management and leadership. He received a Distinguished Service Award from the Harvard Business School and sits in the boards of leading European and American enterprises.

          IESE is one of the world's most international business schools, with campuses in Europe, New York City and Sao Paolo, Brazil, along with 16 Associated Business Schools (including the University of Asia and the Pacific in Manila) which IESE helped establish in Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America.  Working in collaboration with the Harvard Business School, IESE pioneered business education in Europe since its founding in 1958 in Barcelona.  IESE seeks to develop business leaders with solid business skills, a global mindset and a desire to make a positive impact on society.  The school distinguishes itself in its general management approach, extensive use of the case method, international outreach, and emphasis on placing people at the heart of managerial decision making.  With a truly global outlook, IESE currently runs programs in four continents.  Together with the Harvard Business School and the European Union, IESE was instrumental in the establishment of the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) in Shanghai, now considered the best business school in China.  Leading professors of IESE are very active in executive education programs being offered by the School of Management of the University of Asia and the Pacific, which is also sponsoring together with the First Metro Investment group a seminar on the "Future of Business Education in Developed and Emerging Markets" in which Dr. Carlos Cavalle will deliver the keynote speech on January 20, 2014.  For comments, my email address is