Why doesn't the Association of Southeast Asian Nations form a real common market like the European Community?

People who ask that question are naive, said Ali Alatas, permanent representative of Indonesia to the United Nations, speaking at a luncheon here this week sponsored by the American Indonesian Chamber of Commerce.We are not starry-eyed idealists, he said. We will move ahead slowly, but steadfastly, with the goal always in mind of cooperating in areas of mutual agreement. But we can't agree on everything.

Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei - the members of Asean - don't fit together naturally, he said. Most of our economies are based on agriculture. There's no complementarity.

Mr. Alatas, who will soon be returning to the Foreign Ministry in Jakarta, was a delegate at the ministerial meetings leading to the formation of Asean in 1967 and has attended most Asean annual and special meetings.

Asean's most-recent meeting in Manila in December was a success, he said, in that additional tariff and non-tariff barriers were eliminated. But Asean needs to move to a higher plateau, he said. This will come in time. We must be patient.

With Europe moving toward a single market by 1992, people are beginning to ask, Why don't you become like the EC and move toward economic integration? Mr. Alatas remarked. This is a naive view. The nations of Western Europe have a long history of close relations and interactions. They were facing a common enemy at the height of the Cold War when the Common Market was formed.

Asean nations don't have this history of close interactions. We did not unite to face a common enemy. We were divided during the Colonial era, and we have different cultures and systems of government, Mr. Alatas said.

He said Asean will evolve within the context of a changing world, which will require dealing with four major outside powers: the United States, the Soviet Union, China and Japan.

Prior to the luncheon, Janus J. Pitoy, consulate general of Indonesia in New York, discussed Indonesia's economic development and deregulation measures announced last December.

Mr. Pitoy said Indonesia's economy grew nearly 4 percent last year and non-oil exports rose 27 percent to $9.0 billion, surpassing oil and natural gas exports for the first time in many years.

He said he is optimistic for the future, in part because of the December measures designed to attract more foreign investment. Aimed at decreasing bureaucracy, the package of 58 decrees simplifies licensing procedures, eases restrictions on hiring of expatriates and provides various tax incentives.

Foreign joint ventures that are located in a bonded zone and export 100 percent of their output may maintain 95 percent control of the company indefinitely.

To spur the development of tourism, Mr. Pitoy said, the government reduced

from 33 to two the number of licenses required to build hotels, restaurants and similar facilities. A record of more than 1 million tourists visited Indonesia last year.