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Track 1 – Intergovernmental ASEAN’s highest decision-making body is the annual Summit of Heads of State and Government. Below this it holds various ministerial meetings, which take place around twice a year, of which those for foreign ministers carry the greatest weight. There are also over 100 senior official committees and working groups. The number of meetings has expanded and the Secretary-General of ASEAN is expected to attend all summits and ministerial meetings, although just half a decade ago ASEAN was viewed as having less activity between meetings, as compared with other regional bodies as a whole (Muthiah, 2003).

Other potential areas for regional cooperation include countering drugs and human trafficking and negotiating with pharmaceutical companies on prices and supplies. ASEAN can also work as a group with donor countries: it has, for example, already received sizeable amounts of Tamiflu and personal protective equipment in preparing for responses to possible outbreaks of avian influenza. Trade integration ASEAN should have a lot to gain from trade integration. Compared with other regional groupings it is much more dependent on trade.

Below is an analysis of ASEAN region convergence with regard to selected social indicators. Child mortality Within ASEAN the most striking contrasts are in health, particularly for children and mothers. The Gini index for under-five mortality is above 50, a reflection of disturbingly high rates in the Lao PDR (75 deaths per thousand live births), Cambodia (82) and Myanmar (104), compared with less than 10 in the richest ASEAN countries. Convergence does not seem to have been achieved. Indeed, the rates are even moving further apart – this probably reflects relatively larger improvements in the better performing countries such as Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam.

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