Early trade in Southeast Asia started with China and its neighbors trading goods. The Portuguese settled the Maluku in the 16th century, followed by Spaniards in the Philippines. The next centuries saw the Dutch, French, and British explorers make their mark in Southeast Asia. Although before the 16th century, Southeast Asia was already part of the global trading system with Indians and Arabs controlling the spice trade. The Galleon trade mostly replaced the old trade routes as far as the New World. Spices, honey, and natural products were traded with western goods. Formal relations were established as trade improved. Soon, many Asians traveled abroad to study and returned to establish businesses in their own countries.
Major Economies of Southeast Asia
The rise of Asian economies began with the Chinese migration to neighboring Asian countries in the 16th century reaching its apex in 1949. Together with this migration, industries such as rubber, mining, rice, manufacturing and services prospered. After individual countries had gained their independence, modern industries followed in oil, automobile plants, hi-tech goods, and telecoms leading the economies. The following ASEAN member countries are the major movers in the region’s economy in 2016.
The Top Three Economies
Topping the list is Singapore with a nominal GDP total of $289,086,000,000 USD and a per capita GDP of $52,049.00 USD. Its export economy accounts for 407.9% of its GDP, with its government having a 22% stake in its GDP. Computers, integrated circuits, and refined petroleum are its main exports. The unemployment rate in 2015 was down to 1.8%. Brunei is second with a nominal GDP total of $17,105,000,000 USD and a per capita GDP of $37,759.00 USD. Its export economy is driven by natural gas and oil. Unemployment was 6.9% in 2014. Malaysia is third with a nominal GDP total of $367,712,000,000 USD and a per capita GDP of $13,123.00 USD. Its market economy is driven by its industrialized sector.
The Other Southeast Asian Economies
Thailand is fourth with a nominal GDP total of $437,344,000,000 USD and a per capita GDP of $5,697.00 USD. Its export economy is worth US$105 billion. Philippines is fifth with a nominal GDP total of $369,188,000,000 USD and a per capita GDP of $3,568.00 USD. Its economy is based on manufacturing and services. Unemployment was at 6.0% in 2014. Indonesia is sixth with a nominal GDP total of $895,677,000,000 USD and a per capita GDP of $3,511.00 USD. Its economy is driven by exports of its natural resources and tourism. The other member countries are: East Timor ($4,382,000,000USD, GDP total), ($3,239.00 per capita GDP); Vietnam ($187,848,000,000 USD GDP total) $2,370.00; Laos ($11,206,000,000 USD GDP total), ($1,709.00 USD per capita GDP); Myanmar ($63,881,000,000 USD GDP total), ($1,419.00 USD per capita GDP); Cambodia ($17,291,000,000 USD GDP total), ($1,111.00 USD per capita GDP).
ASEAN Economic Relations
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries meet semiannually to discuss cultural and economic issues among member states. Common themes are mutual cooperation in investment and trade, climate change, energy, environment, regional conflicts, poverty, and oil prices. It also holds an annual meeting with its Asian neighbors called the ASEAN dialogue partners. This organization is composed of China, Japan, India, and South Korea. A second set is composed of Australia and New Zealand. Meetings with the two groups are held separately although some semi-annual meetings are held together.