Updated: Nov 12
In this H2 History guide, we will delve into a case study that explores ASEAN, offering you a model answer that showcases the key elements of a top-notch response. By examining this H2 History model answer, you will gain valuable insights into the art of crafting a top-quality case study response while avoiding common pitfalls.
Before diving into the model answer, please read and familiarize themselves with the following case study first. This initial step will enable you to develop your own understanding of the topic and engage critically with the model answer provided. Take the time to thoroughly analyse the key events and factors involved and form your own perspectives and arguments. By doing so, you will be better equipped to appreciate the nuances and insights offered in the subsequent model answer.
This H2 History model answer serves as a guide to help students understand the elements of a well-constructed case study response and provides them with a solid foundation for their own writing endeavours.
The Case Study: ASEAN and Economic Cooperation
ASEAN failed to deal effectively with the Asian Financial Crisis. ASEAN also failed to manage other regional issues that arose during the course of the crisis. These failures have cast doubt on ASEAN’s ability to respond to new regional imperatives. The divergent economic policies and different levels of development of the ASEAN states prevent the organization from taking a coherent and coordinated position on regional financial reform. The problems inherent in creating a regional financial regime are presently too great for Asian states to overcome.
The new ASEAN member states were also dramatically affected by the crisis. Faced with the severity of the crisis, the new ASEAN member states pulled back from economic liberalization. Vietnam delayed efforts to liberalize state-owned industry; in Laos conservative leaders seeking to reduce the pace of reform were greatly strengthened in post-crisis elections. These developments emphasize the growing two-tier structure within ASEAN between the old and new members.
From an academic book, 2002.
Instead of backtracking from their *CEPT-AFTA commitments during the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997, the ASEAN Leaders felt that the only way to cushion the impact of the crisis and speed up the region’s recovery was to reduce reliance on global demand and increase intra-regional trade. Thus, the end-date for the actualization of the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) was further accelerated from 2003 to 2002.
The implementation of the CEPT Scheme was a challenge in itself as the original ASEAN members differed in their levels of economic development. There was the institutional challenge of ASEAN’s expansion. Mid-way through the implementation of the AFTA, Viet Nam, Lao PDR and Myanmar, and Cambodia were admitted into ASEAN. These countries have different political and economic systems. They are economies in transition and their levels of development are significantly lower than that of the original members.
Allow me to conclude by saying that ASEAN, despite the diversity among its members, had withstood and continue to withstand the challenges – both global and regional – because they share one common vision and cohesively they move towards this vision.
Excerpts from the Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN’s speech at a large-scale business conference, 2003. *CEPT stands for Common Effective Tarif Scheme
To further stimulate intra-ASEAN trade within the existing framework, we can do more to make deeper tariff cuts, expand trade liberalisation for products on a sectoral basis, and review the exclusion lists. We must be careful not to follow the paths of governments which resorted to protectionism to solve their immediate problems. We must, with true ASEAN solidarity, continue to commit ourselves to the principles of free trade and work against economic policies which will in the long run, undermine our own prosperity.
From a speech by then Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew at the opening of the Meeting of ASEAN Economic Ministers, November 1982.
The results from the early economic cooperation initiatives of the late 1970s and the 1980s have been largely disappointing. The utilization rates and contribution to intra-ASEAN trade of these regional economic policies had been negligible. The ASEAN countries with large domestic markets followed largely inward looking and protectionist trade and industrial policies during the 1970s and early 1980s. This was especially the case for Indonesia and the Philippines and, to a lesser extent, Thailand. Because the trade policy regimes were protectionist, commitments to and certainly implementation of regional economic integration initiatives were half-hearted.
From an academic journal, 2012
Growth of ASEAN Export to ASEAN members and to the world, 1989-2003 (Amount quoted are in US$ billions)
Figures from a regional think-tank working with the United Nations, 2006.
In the field of economic cooperation, we have agreed that:
ASEAN shall establish the ASEAN Free Trade Area using the Common Effective Preferential Tariff (CEPT) Scheme as the main mechanism within a time frame of 15 years beginning 1 January 1993 with the ultimate effective tariffs ranging from 0% to 5%. ASEAN member states have identified the following fifteen groups of products to be included in the CEPT Scheme for accelerated tariff reductions: vegetable oils, cement, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, fertiliser, plastics, rubber products, leather products, pulp, textiles, ceramic and glass products, gems and jewellery, copper cathodes, electronics, wooden and rattan furniture;
ASEAN shall adopt joint efforts to strengthen trade promotion and negotiations on ASEAN agricultural products in order to enhance ASEAN’s competitive posture, and to sustain the expansion of ASEAN agricultural exports in the international markets;
ASEAN acknowledges that sub-regional arrangements among themselves, or between ASEAN member states and non-ASEAN economies could complement overall ASEAN economic cooperation
Excerpts from ASEAN’s Singapore Declaration, 28 January 1992
Now answer the following questions:
(a) Compare and contrast the evidence provided by Sources A and B on the issue of diversity among the economies of ASEAN’s member states. 
(b) How far do Sources A-F agree with the view that success was elusive in ASEAN’s pursuit of greater regional economic cooperation? 
Syllabus Requirements to hit the Highest Bands.
The answer will make full comprehensive use of both sources. There will be clear explanation on how far they corroborate and differ. The answer will demonstrate a strong critical evaluation of the sources throughout and provide insights into why they are similar or different.
The answer will treat sources as a set and make excellent use of the sources. It will demonstrate a very good understanding of the question. It will demonstrate a critical evaluation of the sources in context to support/challenge the hypothesis (that is, balanced). It may question how far a conclusion can be reached using the evidence. It will either explain fully why evidence to challenge or to support the hypothesis is better or justify an amended/alternative historical interpretation where appropriate.
Model Answer to Part A (L4 9-10 Marks)
Sources A and B disagree on the impact that the diversity of economies had on ASEAN’s regional economic cooperation. While source A saw diversity as detrimental such that it managed to ‘prevent the organization from taking a coherent and coordinated position on regional financial reform’, source B believes ASEAN succeeded despite this diversity because it ‘had withstood and continue to withstand the challenges – both global and regional’.
As source B involves the Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN speaking at a large-scale business conference, he would have greater incentive to laud the achievements of ASEAN to boost the confidence businesses would have in the organization and possibly allow ASEAN to reap economic benefits. In contrast, source A is from an academic book written in 2022 and has less incentive than source A does to trumpet the achievements of ASEAN. This plausibly results in source B discussing the detrimental effects that the diversity of economies has on ASEAN more openly than Source A does.
Source A ad B agree that there was inherent diversity among the economies of ASEAN, and this sometimes resulted in uneven development. Source A states that there were ‘divergent economic policies and different levels of development’ and B echoes this by saying that ‘ASEAN members differed in their levels of economic development’ and the economies of the newer ASEAN members were ‘in transition and their levels of development are significantly lower than that of the original members’.
Both sources offer similar views because there was indeed substantial diversity among the economies in ASEAN with differences existing already among the capitalist economies with Singapore and Malaysia’s economic growth outstripping with that of the Philippines and Indonesia in the post-independence period. This diversity was compounded when the relatively closed economies of Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia were added to the mix between 1995 and 1999. These economies from the latest additions to ASEAN tended to be among the weakest as they had pursued ideologies such as socialism that prevented their countries from benefitting more fully from global trade, thus creating a divide between the more advanced capitalist economies and the less advanced ones of the newer members.
Model Answer to Part B [L6 26/30 Marks]
Sources B and F challenge the view as they suggest that ASEAN had adopted measures that facilitated a higher level of economic cooperation. Source F was ASEAN’s declaration on the adoption of the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) in 1992. Thus, Source F reflects ASEAN’s commitment to heightened economic cooperation as members committed to using the Common Effective Preferential Tariff (CEPT) Scheme to establish AFTA by reducing tariffs ranging from 0% to 5% and adopting ‘joint efforts to strengthen free trade promotion and negotiations on ASEAN agricultural products. Source B shows the materialisation of the AFTA that was declared in Source F, where the Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN highlights that ASEAN leaders responded to the Asian Financial Crisis by ‘reducing reliance on global demand and increasing regional trade’, leading them to accelerate the actualization of the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) from 2003 to 2002. Both sources convey the idea that AFTA was a viable mechanism for ensuring greater regional economic cooperation within ASEAN.
Despite the positive portrayal of ASEAN’s efforts at regional economic cooperation in Sources B and F, there is good reason to question the validity of the perspectives presented. Source F, being the 1992 ASEAN declaration that launched AFTA, demonstrates the willingness of ASEAN members in committing to freer intra-regional trade in principle but this explicit commitment was compromised not only by ASEAN members’ protectionist leanings but also the additions of weaker economies belonging to Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia from 1995 and 1999 which made it harder for ASEAN to achieve the desired levels of regional economic cooperation given the greater unevenness across the economies within it. Source B has an incentive to disproportionately highlight the achievements of ASEAN as it is from a Deputy Secretary-General speaking at a large-scale business conference, plausibly resulting in his desire to emphasise how ASEAN has made significant strides in economic cooperation despite the diversity. Source B’s credibility is further undermined by the fact that the economic achievements of AFTA were uneven at best, with several members choosing to adopt protectionist measures and this resulted in it needing to be relaunched in 1993. Thus, it appears less likely that ASEAN was successful in its pursuit of regional economic cooperation.
Source E echoes some views in B and F on the notion of ASEAN success by highlighting how mechanisms such as AFTA has spurred ASEAN towards greater regional economic cooperation. The idea of sharing ‘one common vision’ as referenced in B and the commitment to ‘joint efforts to strengthen trade promotion and negotiations on ASEAN agricultural products’ plausibly manifested in intra-ASEAN trade more than doubling between 1995 when ASEAN-5 trade amongst themselves stood at 33.51 and shot up to 69.95 in 1995. Aside from the dip in this figure in 1998 due to the Asian Financial Crisis (AFC), it quickly rebounded to its highest level in the 1990s – to that of 75.08. Thus, these figures in E corroborate the idea in B that ASEAN members increased regional economic cooperation in the face of the AFC and reflects how the declaration in F materialised into increased economic cooperation within ASEAN.
However, Source E ultimately supports the hypothesis as it corroborates with Source A in reflecting the limitations of ASEAN’s efforts at regional economic cooperation. While trade among the ASEAN-5 may have increased from 33.51 to 69.95 from 1995 to 1998 but in the same period, ASEAN-5 trade with the world increased from 180.49 in 1992 to 311.34 in 1995. Thus, ASEAN-5 trade with the world significantly overshadowed trade among the ASEAN-5 into the 1990s and this dilutes the notion that ASEAN was successful in fostering regional economic cooperation. The great disparity between intra-ASEAN trade figures vis-à-vis ASEAN-5’s trade with the world could be explained by A as it highlights how protectionism compromised ASEAN’s pursuit of regional economic cooperation. Source A notes that when the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997 hit the region, the new ASEAN member states whose economies were weaker than those of the original members ‘pulled back from liberalization’. For example, Vietnam ‘delayed efforts to liberalize state-owned industry’.
Sources C and D reinforce the perspectives in A by suggesting that the issue of protectionism was a long-standing one that preceded the AFC and was prevalent in the 1970s and the 1980s, thus impeding greater regional economic cooperation in ASEAN. In Source C, Lee Kuan Yew acknowledged that more can be done to ‘further stimulate intra-ASEAN trade’ and cautions ASEAN members against following ‘the paths which resorted to protectionism to solve their immediate problems.’ Similarly, Source D observes that the ‘results from the early economic cooperation initiatives of the late 1970s and the 1980s had been largely disappointing’ due in part to ‘ASEAN countries with large domestic markets’ adopting ‘inward looking and protectionist trade and industrial policies.’ Lee Kuan Yew was likely referring to how ASEAN countries in the 1970s and 1980s had been slow to liberalise due to the development gap that existed among member states, with some such as the Philippines stubbornly sticking with import substitution strategies.
Sources A, D and E provide credible support for the idea that ASEAN’s pursuit of regional economic cooperation was elusive. Unlike Source B, they have less incentive to disproportionately credit or discredit the economic achievements of ASEAN. Significantly, Source E shows that ASEAN’s commitment to greater economic cooperation as seen in the Singapore Declaration of 1992 in Source F did not translate into economic success, where ASEAN-5 trade continued to pale greatly in comparison to ASEAN-5 trade with the world. The fact that ASEAN had to relaunch AFTA in 1993 attests further to the idea that AFTA was less than revolutionary in facilitating a heightened level of regional economic cooperation within ASAEAN. Source A and D’s credibility are enhanced by the first-hand account of Source C where Lee Kuan Yew echoes the view of both sources that protectionism was hurting ASEAN. As one of the key leaders in ASEAN and a strong proponent of free trade, Lee Kuan Yew was well-placed to comment on the impediments that were preventing ASEAN from achieving a higher level of economic cooperation.
Ultimately, the sources that support the view are preferred because they comprise the perspectives of academics whose insights are corroborated with the account of Lee Kuan Yew, a strong proponent of free trade and a prominent leader within ASEAN who noted how protectionism existed as early as the 1970s and 1980s, thereby undermining efforts at greater regional cooperation. In addition, their perspectives correspond with contextual knowledge such as how AFTA was considered a landmark economic agreement in 1992 in light of the overall lack of regional economic cooperation within ASEAN and how the entry of newer ASEAN members indeed impeded efforts at regional cooperation, particularly as these members needed more time to adhere to the CEPT Scheme’s stipulations. In contrast, Sources A and D at best show that ASEAN made piecemeal efforts at advancing economic cooperation, such as the response to the Asian Financial Crisis which ASEAN responded inadequately to resulting in the devaluation of the Thai Baht affecting the rest of the region. D, as a statement of ASEAN’s intent was eventually unfulfilled as shown in Source E where statistics revealed that ASEAN-5 trade continued to lag significantly behind ASEAN-5 trade with the world. Thus, the hypothesis should be modified to read, ‘ASEAN’s pursuit of regional economic cooperation ultimately remained elusive as it was largely absent in the first two decades of ASEAN’s conception and even a significant agreement such as AFTA provided mixed results at best.