The importance of external trade to ASEAN and the need for the ASEAN Community as a whole to remain outward looking, the AEC
envisages the following key characteristics: (a) a single market and production base, (b) a highly competitive economic region, (c) a region of equitable economic development, and (d) a region fully integrated into the global economy. These characteristics are inter-related and mutually reinforcing. Incorporating the required elements of each characteristic in one Blueprint shall ensure the consistency and coherence of these elements as well as their implementation and proper coordination among relevant stakeholders.
At the 12th ASEAN Summit in January 2007, the Leaders affirmed their strong commitment to accelerate the establishment of an ASEAN Community by 2015 as envisioned in the ASEAN Vision 2020 and the ASEAN Concord II, and signed the Cebu Declaration on the Acceleration of the Establishment of an ASEAN Community by 2015. In particular, the Leaders agreed to hasten the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community by 2015 and to transform ASEAN into a region with free movement of goods, services, investment, skilled labour, and freer flow of capital.