About Us

The ASEAN Studies Centre is devoted to research on issues that pertain to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as an institution and a process. The Centre is a part of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS), a leading think tank dedicated to the study of trends and developments in Southeast Asia as a whole.

News & Updates

The Straits Times edition of today carried this article by Shannon Teoh on the delay in issuance of the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting’s Joint Communique. Please click here to read the full article. 

 

 

 

ASC Lead Researcher for Economic Affairs Sanchita Basu Das discusses the AIIB and how it could support the implementation of the Master Plan of ASEAN Connectivity in her article first carried in the Straits Times edition of 16 July 2015. The full article is available at this link or click here. Response to Sanchita’s view on the Straits Times Forum Page could be found here.

 

 

 

What does the announcement of the ASEAN Community at end-2015 mean? What can we expect beyond that date?  These questions and more, will be discussed at a panel on “The ASEAN Community 2015: What Does It Denote?” on Friday, 31 July 2015 at 10.00 hrs at ISEAS. More details at Seminar Notice. To register, click here.

 

 

The China’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) initiative so far has attracted expressions of interest from almost 60 countries. With the AIIB being launched within four years of the adoption of Master Plan of ASEAN Connectivity (MPAC), policy-makers are beginning to ask how this new source of funding can be deployed to resolve some of ASEAN’s financing needs. The ASC's Lead Researcher for Economic Affairs, Sanchita Basu Das argues that the AIIB may not provide a complete solution for the MPAC while discussing reasons for ASEAN to strengthen its collective decision-making processes to manage China’s interactions with the region effectively. Details can be found in the ISEAS Perspective, first published on 24 June 2015. To read the full article, please click here.

The Kyoto Review on Southeast Asia's Young Academic's Voice edition of 1 June 2015 carries an article by ASC Lead Researcher (economic) Sanchita Basu Das.  The article's title "China's Three-Pronged Strategy on Regional Connectivity"  explains China’s connectivity drive as a three-pronged strategy to commensurate its economic rise: disclosing the physical routes; planning the financing; and exploring the feasibility of the routes through increased trade and investment. It justifies the increased discussion on connectivity and the role of Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank as a self-help mechanism led by Asia’s developing countries, particularly China, to match the shift of global economic weight from the West to the East and to satisfy the infrastructure gap in the region. The full article is available on the Kyoto Review's website at this direct link. or click here.

 

 

Malaysia has revived the 2003 Indonesian proposal to establish an ASEAN Peacekeeping Force as one of Malaysia’s ASEAN Chairmanship initiatives. This is to “find matters where ASEAN can unite”, states Malaysia’s Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein who has started discussing the proposal with his ASEAN counterparts via a shuttle diplomacy move. While some ASEAN member states have shown interest to support the proposal, there are some challenges for implementation, as this entails the participation of all member states. The principles for deployment the financing structure, and shared political/security objectives need to be worked out.

ISEAS Senior Fellow Tang Siew Mun gives his assessment of the feasibility of an ASEAN Peacekeeping Force, in an article carried today in the Straits Times, with the title “ASEAN Peacekeeping Force: Points to Ponder". Please click here to read the article.

 

 

ASC Lead Researcher for Economic Affairs Sanchita Basu Das discusses the work-in-progress nature of regional economic integration in her commentary carried first in the Business Times edition of 20 May 2015. Read the article in full here. 

 

 

ASC lead researchers Sanchita Basu Das and Dr Termsak Chalermpalunupap had an interactive discussion with members of the Indonesia Young Entrepreneurs Association on 11 May 2015, when the young entrepreneurs visited ISEAS to learn more of regional developments, particularly with regard to the ongoing preparations for the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) which will be announced as part of the ASEAN Community 2015 in December 2015. The young entrepreneurs showed keen interest in AEC developments, the current state of AEC initiatives and priorities, including future benefits for young entrepreneurs in ASEAN. They were also interested in knowing the details of what the ASEAN Leaders would announce for the ASEAN Community on 31st December 2015.

Overall, Indonesia is the largest market in the ASEAN region, and Indonesians –as consumers of goods and services – will benefit from greater competition in Indonesia and in the AEC. Because of this, the young entrepreneurs need to pay attention not only to developments and challenges in AEC implementation, but also to know more of AEC’s linkages with the two community pillars: the ASEAN Political Security Community (APSC) and the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC). This is because all the three community pillars are inter-linked, and ASEAN member states all stand to gain some tangible benefits from ASEAN’s community-building endeavour.

 

 

The ASEAN Studies Centre (ASC) team had the honour to brief two royal princesses on ASEAN issues and concerns. Most recently, on 8 May 2015, HRH Princess Hajah Masna, Ambassador-at-large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Negara Brunei Darussalam, visited ISEAS to discuss topics related to the outcome statements and declarations issued at the 26th ASEAN Summit, including ASEAN’s discussions on territorial claims in the South China Sea, and on ASEAN centrality. Other topics of interest that were discussed with HRH Princess Hajah Masna and her delegation included emerging trends under each of the community pillars for the post-2015 landscape in ASEAN, ranging from the new regional economic architecture under the ASEAN Economic Community to issues and trends in the socio-cultural sphere, including those related to ASEAN’s efforts in deepening regional identity and awareness.

Earlier on 17 March 2015, ASC Head Rodolfo Severino and ASC lead researchers Sanchita Basu Das and Moe Thuzar accompanied ISEAS Deputy Director Dr Ooi Kee Beng, ISEAS Senior Fellow Dr Cassey Lee, and Visiting Senior Fellow Dr Porphant Ouyyanont for an audience with HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand, to discuss the issues and implications arising from regional economic integration, particularly with regard to the impact of integration on the people in ASEAN countries. HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn is an ISEAS Distinguished Honorary Fellow since July 2012.

 

 

Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Prof Kishore Mahbubani, has shared his thoughts on ASEAN in a commentary “The modern miracle that is ASEAN” carried by the Straits Times on 10 May 2015. In his commentary, Dean Kishore discusses the importance of diplomatic and personal ties in sustaining and maintaining regional harmony among the ASEAN members. The full article is here

 

 

In a commentary carried by the Business Times today, 5 May 2015, ASC's Lead Researcher for Economic Affairs Sanchita Basu Das has assessed the pronouncements on the AEC implementation made by the ASEAN heads of state/government at the 26th ASEAN Summit which recently concluded in Malaysia. People's understanding of what the AEC will bring differ, whether they are academics and analysts following AEC, or businessmen and citizens of ASEAN countries. The full article is here

 

 

ISEAS Senior Fellow Tang Siew Mun has shared his views on the outcome of the 26th ASEAN Summit recently hosted and chaired by Malaysia on 26-27 April 2015.  The Chairman's Statement of the 26th ASEAN Summit issued after the ASEAN heads of state and government concluded their deliberations contains "some of the strongest wordings" on the South China Sea since 2012. This is a first at the Summit-level, as most of the stronger-worded statements have been usually issued by ASEAN Foreign Ministers.  The article in full, published by the Straits Times on 1 May 2015, can be accessed here

 

asean 26th small

A Dialogue Forum on "Attitudes and Awareness Towards ASEAN: A Research Finding" was held at Kuala Lumpur on 29 April 2015, as part of the series of ASEAN-related discussions and forums held in conjunction with the 26th ASEAN Summit recently hosted and chaired by Malaysia.  

The research findings are the preliminary results of an update of a ten-nation survey among undergraduate students, first undertaken in 2007. In 2014, ISEAS coordinated an update of the 2007 survey, in order to gauge whether attitudes have changed or remain the same on the eve of the ASEAN Community 2015 announcement. Dr Eric C. Thompson of the National University of Singapore, continued as lead investigator of the survey, together with Dr Chulanee Thianthai of Chulalonkorn University and Ms Moe Thuzar of ISEAS' ASEAN Studies Centre as project investigators.   

Preliminary findings from the survey update found that overall, undergraduates in the ASEAN countries continue to display ASEAN-positive attitudes, with highest enthusiasm found in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam (over 90%), and ambivalence continuing in Singapore and the Philippines (less than 67%). Over 80% of students consider themselves "citizens" of ASEAN. Compared to 2007, more ASEAN-positive attitudes are now displayed in Myanmar, and Thailand showed more ASEAN ambivalent attitudes. Students' objective knowledge of ASEAN also improved from 2007 to 2014. The Internet as a primary source of information on ASEAN has jumped up to third position, following television and school.

More details are in a fact-sheet summarising the key highlights of these preliminary results here. 

 

One day after the 26th ASEAN Summit concluded on 27 April 2015 in Langkawi, Malaysia, the Chairman's Statement of the 26th ASEAN Summit has been officially released. The full text of the statement can be accessed here.

 

ASC’s Sanchita Basu Das shared her views on achieving AEC and the post-2015 situation for economic integration, among other priorities, in a recent conversation with Channel News Asia in anticipation of the 26th ASEAN Summit discussions.  The CNA segment can be watched at this link, which also includes Sanchita’s inputs in the accompanying write-up.

 

Based on an interview with Foreign Minister Anifah Aman, the Diplomat published an article on Malaysia's eight priorities as ASEAN Chair ahead of the 26th ASEAN Summit next week. These are:

- The official formation of a strong ASEAN community;
- Building a post-2015 vision with related guidelines and documents;
- Steering ASEAN closer to the people;
- Developing SMEs;
- Expanding intra-ASEAN trade and investment,
- Strengthening ASEAN institutions;
- Promoting regional peace and security;
- Enhancing the association’s role as a global player.

Click here for the full article by The Diplomat

 

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak was interviewed by Bernama on 23 April 2015, in anticipation of the 26th ASEAN Summit which Malaysia will host and chair on 26 and 27 April 2015 in Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi. The two important messages Malaysia wishes to highlight at the Summit are: 1) to realise the ASEAN Blueprint as a Community, and 2) with Malaysia as ASEAN Chair, to begin the process of charting the post-2015 vision for ASEAN. 

A transcript of the interview was published by The New Straits Times at this link.

 

 ASC’s lead researcher for economic affairs, Sanchita Basu Das, highlights five important points that provide both context and clarification to ongoing debates on the AEC and its perceived impact on ASEAN and in individual ASEAN member states. These five facts are: first, ASEAN is not developed on the basis of the EU model; second, implementation of AEC commitments is carried out by the national economies; third, AEC is not the sole cause of competition in any Southeast Asian economies; fourth, lack of awareness on AEC could be attributed to its top-down approach used while developing the agenda and fifth, the AEC should be seen together with the other two ASEAN Community Pillars to conclude whether ASEAN can deliver on its commitments by 2015.

The ISEAS Perspective, which discusses this in detail, can be accessed at at this link.

 

Richard Heydarian, Political Science Professor at De La Salle University, The Philippines, suggested ASEAN should push harder for a code of Conduct on the South China Sea. This was published in The Straits Times' Opinion column at this link. China sees The Philippine's turn to the Arbitral Tribunal at The Hague over the disputed islands as an act of provocation. Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario "urged Asean to show unity and exhibit greater resolve. He warned that China's alleged aim to "establish full control" over the South China Sea represents a "watershed" moment for Asean's credibility."

Asean leadership noted the escalting tensions. They pushed for placing both the DOC and Code of Conduct (COC) issue on the agenda of the Asean Defence Ministers' Meeting Plus which will be in November this year. It is also expected that there will be a more proactive push as Singapore takes over as coordinator for ASEAN-China relations in August.

Wu Shicun, President of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, shared his views on China's approach with the China Daily USA at this link. China suggested a dual-track approach of developing a "scientific definition of the South China Sea" as well as negotiations and consultations between claimant countries. China also opposes an ASEAN-China negotiation citing that ASEAN is a regional organisation and is not a sovereign state.

This report by the Economic Development Board, Singapore suggested that Southeast Asia is increasing in its potential towards becoming an economic powerhouse and manufacturing hub. Economic transitions in China provide the ASEAN region with an opportunity to capture a greater share of the pie.

The launch of the ASEAN Economic Community 2015 milestone in ASEAN's Community Building efforts will also boost this. ISEAS-ASC's Sanchita Basu Das added “The reason ASEAN is going through the single-market production process is we need to have a production network within the region. The aim of the AEC is to make these countries participate more effectively in the (manufacturing) supply chain network.”

Click here for the report by the Economic Development Board, Singapore

The latest ISEAS Perspective issue by Tang Siew Mun and Sanchita Basu Das explains the significance oc the US State of the Union Address, delivered by President Barack Obama on 20 January 2015. The implications for the region are related to the state of the American economy, the Trans Pacific Agreement, reshoring American jobs and the stability of the alliance structure in the region.

Click here to read the ISEAS Perspective issue

The Diplomat reported in ASEAN Patrols in the South China Sea? that Vice Admiral Robert Thomas of the US Navy Seventh Fleet suggested ASEAN member states form a combined maritime force to patrol parts of the South China Sea.

Speaking at the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting in Malaysia, he suggested that such an initiative could improve operational objectives and training adding that it would be supported by the US Seventh Fleet.

This concept wouldn't be vastly different from Malacca Strait Patrols (MSP) undertaken by Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand.

Seperately, Singapore called for India to play a bigger role in the South China Sea as a counter to China's presence in the disputed territory. The latter has sped up land reclamation in the sea of late. This was reported by Bloomberg in India Should Play Bigger Role in South China Sea, Says Singapore

ISEAS' Ian Storey added “The reclaimed features will enable China to station warships, coast guard vessels and aircraft on a permanent basis in the Spratlys, thus enabling it to project and sustain its military and paramilitary assets far further south than it had previously been able to do so.”

SME Corporation Malaysia chief executive officer, Datuk Hafsah Hashim suggests that ASEAN is poised to become one of the biggest economic powerhouses in the region.

She shared her views with The Star Online: “Asean as a region has a lot of potential. We have palm oil, rubber and minerals, and on top of that, the countries have almost the same culture, which would make it easier for business,” she told Bernama in conjunction with the upcoming Asean SME Showcase and Conference 2015 to be held in May.

Click here for the full article by The Star Online.

Ambassador K Kesavapany, Ambassador of Singapore to Jordan, Distinguished Affiliated Fellow of the Asian Research Institute at the National University of Singapore and former Director of ISEAS wrote an opinion piece for The Straits Times, largely in response to Ambassador Barry Desker's opinion piece ASEAN integration remains an illusion.

He noted that the 2015 ASEAN Economic Community goal is merely a yardstick; that an accelerated integration process may have its own pitfalls; and that ASEAN has helped maintain peace in the region.

Its greatest worth to-date is the consciousness that ASEAN has developed in ministers, officials and NGOs in the region in thinking regionally on matters such as cross-border environmental issues and illegal narcotics trafficking.

He also noted the benefits that Myanmar and her people has benefited from ASEAN integration, ASEAN economic cooperation has made the region more attractive to foreign investment and its diplomatic capital has led to US to adopt a "pivot" policy.

Ambassador K Kesavapany suggested the perspective of ASC-ISEAS' Moe Thuzar in her recent article Asean's missing links need to be bridged in which she was quoted "it is all about changing mindsets and cultivating an outlook that sees the benefit of working regionally."

Click here for the article as published by The Straits Times

In their recently published paper on "Strengthening ASEAN Institutions for AEC 2015 and Beyond", The Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) suggests that several institutional issues need to be tackled for ASEAN's community-building goals. These including gathering views beyond governments on the quality of governance of ASEAN institutions, developing public policy centres of excellence, commissioning project teams that cut across the three existing community pillars, risk surveillance and financial stability monitoring.

SIIA also published an equally insightful article on "ASEAN Centrality in the Regional Architecture" where it was suggested that "ASEAN must continue to develop its own consensus on key issues and act successfully as a central actor and influencer of events among others in Asia" with several policy recommendations provided.

Click the hyperlinks above to access the reports on SIIA's website.

In addition to the analyses by ASC-ISEAS researchers, Sanchita Basu Das and Moe Thuzar on ASEAN's integration efforts, AMB Barry Desker shares his views on ASEAN integration published in the RSIS Commentary series.

AMB Desker is a Distinguished Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University and Non-Resident Ambassador of Singapore to the Holy See and Spain.

Noting that ASEAN has brought the region closer, kept it free of intra-state conflict, and kept the region relevant to major powers, AMB Desker expressed his reservations over approaches taken such as consensus decision-making.

As with the perspective of Moe Thuzar and Sanchita Basu Das, AMB Desker suggested that fundamentally, an "ASEAN mindset" that would cross the sectorial boundaries of policymakers is needed with the idea of a customs union included. Other critical aspects of integration that should be addressed include "the standardisation of legal regimes and the development of infocommunications technology infrastructure."

Click here for the full RSIS Commentary

As ASEAN prepares for its first milestone towards an integrated community, the key obstacles are lie with physical infrastructure, harmonising customs and immigration procedures, Moe Thuzar explains.

With improved and cheaper connectivity, economic corridors have emerged and grown in importance in supply chain networks. Economic imbalances between the urban and rural areas too have grown, further impacting migration patterns.

ASEAN has been pursuing connectivity in the region with its Master Plan on Asean Connectivity (MPAC) adopted in 2010 that includes among other projects, the ASEAN Highway Network. Financing the projects in the master plan however will require a healthy investment climate and the ability of the respective governments to create mutually beneficial private-public partnerships.

Click here to read the article as published by The Straits Times.

ASC's Sanchita Basu Das, along with Rahul Sen, Department of Economics, Faculty of Business and Law, Auckland University of Technology and Sadhana Srivastava, Department of Economics, Faculty of Business and Law, Auckland University of Technology have authored the current ISEAS Perspective issue. The issue discusses the feasibility of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) moving forward to the next step of economic integration, i.e. towards an ASEAN Customs Union (ACU) post-2015.

Click here to read the issue.

Today wrote an opinion piece on ASEAN's integration efforts.

Analysts such as Mr Ong Keng Yong, executive deputy chairman of Singapore’s S Rajaratnam School of International Studies and former ASEAN secretary-general suggested the ASEAN Economic Community would be the most obvious of the three pillars.

While the bloc has enjoyed peace and stablity since its formation in 1967, issues such as disagreements on the South China sea disputes have hampered the Political Security community efforts.

The sociocultural pillar which has dual objectives of identity-building and narrowing the devleopment gap among member states, has reported it has completed 90% of its measures listed in the ASCC blueprint. However, these benefits are less visible.

ASC's Me Thuzar suggested "The sense among analysts is that more needs to be done, especially in making sure people understand what regional cooperation means...This feeds into developing a regional identity.”

Click here for the full article by Today.

The two-day Asean economic ministers (AEM) Retreat held in Kota Baru, Malaysia has wrapped up on 1 March 2015.

Non-Tariff Barriers (NTB) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) were discussed. Some of the outcomes for focus this year are "further simplification of Customs procedures, harmonisation of standards, liberalisation of services and trade facilitation, as well as, conclusion of the services and investments portion of the Asean-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership."

Also discussed was the progress on the SME Strategic Action Plan and a comprehensive vision for AEC beyond 2015.

Click here for the full report by the Malay Mail Online

ASC's Sanchita Basu shared her views with Bernama on the implementation of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) which is part of ASEAN's community-building efforts

"The AEC outcome should not be seen solely in terms of its objective of a single market and whether it can be a game changer for key economic stakeholders currently present in the region.

"Rather, the AEC should be viewed also as a strategic project that attracts more FDI (foreign direct investment), help member countries to participate in global supply chains, and strengthen member countries' bargaining power in international economic, financial and strategic matters," she explained.

Sanchita added that all these together were expected to help ASEAN become a hub in the bigger economic space of Asia, contributing to its objective of maintaining centrality.

Her detailed opinion could be read in the article entitled "The ASEAN Economic Community: An Economic and Strategic Project" published in the ISEAS website.

Click here for the full article by The Bernama

The Rappler shared an article on the issue of food shortage which continues to be a major challenge for the region, and one which could become worse amid rising food prices. To tackle the issue, the ASEAN Integrated Food Security (AIFS) was set up. This is an issue that could benefit greatly from cooperation among member states.
click here for the full article.

With ASEAN two years away from its golden anniversary, The South China Morning Post shared an opinion piece assessing ASEAN's growth over the years.
Click here for the full article.

On matters related to the ASEAN Political Security Community, some discussions has been abound. The Diplomat suggests Malaysia which is currently chairing ASEAN may want to revisit the idea of building an ASEAN peacekeeping force at this link. The Center for International Maritime Security suggests in this article that tensions in the South China Seas may prompt member states to develop a maritime alliance, suggesting that their existing fleets may complement each other's capabilities.

Navin Rajagobal, Director, Faculty Affairs at Yale-NUS College wrote an Opinion piece for The Straits Times on an incident that occurred off Singapore's (then known as Singapura) Upper East Coast of Changi that bears relevance to the concept of freedom of navigation and historical roots used to understand the nature of the disputes in the South China Sea.

In 1603, the Dutch seized a Portugese merchant ship, the Santa Catarina, off Singapura's Changi Coast in Portugese-controlled waters arguing that it was justified as the freedom of navigation in the seas was a right. This has been dubbed the Santa Catarina incident. Eventually elements of this was used in the codication of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Therefore some may argue that China's "nine dashed lines" map which appears to close busy sea lanes dates back to mare clausum (closed sea) which is contrary to the Santa Catarina incident which eventually led to the UNCLOS.

Click here to read the full article as published by The Straits Times.

ASC's Sanchita Basu Das, along with Rahul Sen, Department of Economics, Faculty of Business and Law, Auckland University of Technology and Sadhana Srivastava, Department of Economics, Faculty of Business and Law, Auckland University of Technology have authored the current ISEAS Economics Working Papers issue. The paper explores the feasibility of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) moving forward to the next step of economic integration, i.e. towards an ASEAN Customs Union (ACU) post-2015.

Click here to read the paper.

ASC's Moe Thuzar has published the latest ISEAS Perspective issue titled "ASEAN Community 2015: What’s In It For the Region?"
The Perspective issue provides a brief stocktake of ASEAN's community-building efforts to-date and what lies ahead. Beyond statistics and economics which may be less visible to many, the Perspective highlights the community-building efforts that include university networking and greater intra-ASEAN travel among other that have already shown benefits.

Click here to read the Perspective issue.

2015 looks to be a busy year in ASEAN with the formation of the ASEAN Economic Community and the expected completion of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). However, work is being done on the less-publicised Political Security Community as well.

The ninth ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting (ADMM) will be held in Langkawi in March. In the 12th ASEAN Chiefs of Defense Forces Informal Meeting (ACDFIM) earlier this year, proposals to deepen defense collbarion was discussed. This included "formalizing the ACDFIM, integrating CDFs from the broader ASEAN Defense Ministers Plus (ADMM-Plus) umbrella into dialogues, and expanding current bilateral exercises into multilateral ASEAN ones." Malaysia has also expressed that it "wants greater cooperation between ASEAN militaries for humanitarian and disaster relief efforts"...

Click here for the full article by The Diplomat.

If Cambodia is able to integrate itself successfully into the ASEAN Economic Community, it would greatly benefit its economic and social development. While cambodia has been doing well economically with GDP growth rates averaging 7 per cent the last four years, it would need to improve its competitiveness to sustain this. Cambodia will also need to reduce its dependence on aid donors. Other issues that need to be addressed include infrastructure, rural-urban divides education and a lack of institutional-capacity.

Click here for the full article by the East Asia Forum.

ASEAN has officially kicked off what some describe as a “pivotal” year for the group. Will the Southeast Asian bloc meet its targets and what will its post-2015 roadmap look like?

ASC's Moe Thuzar and Mark Valencia, a maritime policy analyst and political commentator shared their views in ChannelNewsAsia's Between the Lines series on ASEAN's Priorities.

Click the thumbnail below to play the video as aired by ChannelNewsAsia

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The Missing Statistic Revealing Strong US-ASEAN Ties- With growing trade between Southeast Asia and China, some may overlook the fact that the US's largest growth of FDI by region is to Southeast Asia. ISEAS' Dr Malcolm Cook shares his views with the East-West Center. Click here for the full article.

The Today edition of 31 January carries an article that the ASEAN Political Security Community is as yet a "distant goal".   Among other ASEAN analysts and practitioners, ASC's Moe Thuzar was interviewed for her views on this topic.   The rising tensions in the South China Sea continue to be of concern for ASEAN members. However it was noted that the group has been successful in promoting regional stability and providing a conducive environment for dialogue.

Click here for the article published by Today.

Concerns were raised at the AMM last week over china's land reclamation in the South China Sea. Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario addded "Our inaction on this would undermine the principle of centrality, since we are unable to address in a unified and collective way such a critical issue in our own backyard."

Click here for the full article by the International Business Times

The Straits Times shared their views in Keeping the momentum of Asean's community-building.

In addition to the priorities laid down by Malaysia for their chairmanship, Malaysia hopes to bridge the gap between "ASEAN and its citizens"  as well as "implementing the Declaration on Strengthening the Asean Secretariat and Reviewing the Asean Organs" which would provide a larger and more effective role for the ASEAN Secretariat. Dealing with the threat of terrorism and implementing the political-security and socio-cultural pillars of the ASEAN community are other issues that needs to be addressed.

Click here for the full opinion piece by The Straits Times

ASC's Sanchita Basu Das shared her views with the East Asia Forum on the ASEAN Economic Community. It isn't only about Economics, she explains. It is also likely to generate more welfare gains among others.
Click here to read the full article as published by The East Asia Forum.

ASC's Sanchita Basu Das has published the latest ISEAS Perspective issue titled "The ASEAN Economic Community (AEC): An Economic and Strategic Project" on the AEC which is part of ASEAN's community Building Efforts.

The Perspective issue highlights not just the economic aspects of AEC which has produced benefits in the form of increased FDI in member states among others but also its strategic value where it will help manage ongoing geopolitical uncertainties.

Click here to read the full issue.

"Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman, speaking ahead of the foreign ministers' meeting... laid out goals - including "regional stability and predictability of behaviour" - under its tenure."

Analysts speaking with the Straits Times also expect Malaysia to push for the Code of Conduct with China on territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea. ISEAS's Deputy Director Dr Ooi Kee Beng suggested that Malaysia is unlikely to push for it's own territorial claims in the South China Sea and that Malaysia will want to "move carefully"

Click here for the full article by AsiaOne.

Singapore's Foreign Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam shared his views with reporters from Channel NewsAsia Singapore on Tuesday. On the threat of ISIS with the recent killing of two Japanese hostages among other incidents, that ASEAN should look at ways to strengthen disaster relief responses. This along with the ASEAN Community's Post-2015 Vision and South china Sea issues were expected to have been discussed at the ASEAN Foreign Ministers retreat in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. 

Click here for the article by ChannelNewsAsia which also includes a video report.

With Malaysia chairing ASEAN this year under the theme of 'a people-centered ASEAN", analysts have been sharing their views on the year ahead.

The Diplomat suggested in Can Malaysia Shape ASEAN Beyond 2015? that Malaysia is likely to push for deeper integration among member states as per the "Roadmap for an ASEAN Community 2009-2015". The Diplomat also suggested that "Malaysia’s capability to lead and its commitment to the wellbeing of the ASEAN people will be reflected in its ability to successfully inspire other member countries to tackle critical human security issues and to genuinely work with CSOs to set the direction for a post-2015 ASEAN."

On the issue of the South china Sea disputes- for which Malaysia is one of the claimant states, The Establishment Post suggested that Malaysia is likely to be able to balance national and regional interests in Malaysia and the South China Sea: Will KL Abandon its Hedging Policy?

Indonesia has ratified the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary haze Pollution. With this, all ten ASEAN member states have ratified the agreement.

This agreement "is the first regional arrangement that binds a group of contiguous states to tackle transboundary haze pollution resulting from land and forest fires. It has also been considered as a global role model for the tackling of transboundary issues. With Indonesia’s ratification, the Agreement has now been ratified by all ASEAN Member States," ASEAN reports.

Click here for the official news report on ASEAN's website.

Knowledge@Wharton of the University of Pennsylvania did an analysis on the impact lower oil prices are likely to have on economic growth in the AEAN region this year.

It was suggested the lower oil prices at present may be beneficial to some ASEAN member states such as Thailand which is a net importer while it may hurt Malaysi, a net exporter. However strong economic growth is still expected this year in the region as a whole. The article also touched on the potential impact of economic integration in the region which is a part of ASEAN's Community Building effort.

Click here for the full article

As part of the Asian Development Bank Working Paper series on Regional Economic Integration, ADB has published "The ASEAN Economy In the Regional Context: Opportunities, Challenges, and Policy Options" by Giovanni Capannelli.

G. Capannelli discusses ASEAN's need of an ambitious plan beyond the ASEAN Economic Community 2015 to achieve its economic development aspirations. In particular, the paper suggests the need to adopt appropriate policy mix including structural reforms and moves to deepen regional integration. Click here for the full paper as published by ADB.

The Human Rights Resource Centre, a non-profit academic centre headquartered at the University of Indonesia in Jakarta, has just launched an ASEAN-wide Study, “Keeping the Faith: A Study of Freedom of Thought, Conscience, and Religion in ASEAN”. The book has just been launched in Jakarta. For more details, visit their website at this link

The Financial Times suggested major-power rivalry in the Southeast Asia is prompting Japan to step up its economic trade ties.

ASC's Sanchita Bas Das added “There is this kind of competition among the big players... In the next year we are going to continue to see this kind of rivalry, using economics as a tool.

To read a PDF of the full article, click here.

For the article as published by The Financial Times, click here.

The newspaper Today reported on the Keynote Speech made at the ISEAS Regional Outloook Forum on 8 January 2015 by Mr Bilahari Kausikan, Ambassador-at-Large, Singapore. 

Mr Kausikan shared his opinions at the forum: “The key decisions are always going to be made in Washington DC, Beijing and Tokyo and not in any ASEAN capital. Still, one crucial factor is within ASEAN’s grasp, and this is to continue ASEAN’s own economic integration project ... Without economic integration, the centrifugal forces generated by China’s growth will at least loosen and may well destroy the nascent development of the South-east Asian identity.”

To read the full report by Today, click here.

Professor Tommy Koh’s New Year Wish for ASEAN -  In his opinion piece “Three Wishes for the New Year” published in the Straits Times edition of January 3, Professor Tommy Koh has included a wish for ASEAN in 2015, noting that ASEAN’s positive role as a convenor and facilitator for regional forums and institutions, and looking forward to ASEAN’s continued central role in regional institutions as a united, independent and neutral organisation.   The full article is available here.

Singapore-based newspaper Today published an opinion piece on the ASEAN Economic Community suggesting that the "political will of the countries to ensure that progress remains in sight, cautioning that the deadline should be seen more as a milestone in the integration effort to make the bloc a competitive economic region."

ASC's Sanchita Basu Das shared her views: ASEAN has been sending signals early that 2015 is no longer a deadline, it’s a milestone on the road. So it’s not going to affect their reputation if they can’t meet the 2015 target.

Click here to read the full article published by Today.

 

- Formation of integrated economic community marks coming of age for South-east Asia in wake of colonialism and Cold War

Dr Ooi Kee Beng, Deputy Director of ISEAS shared his views with The Straits Times on The ASEAN Economic Community that aims to integrate the region into a single market and production base with a free flow of goods, services, capital and labour. Dr Ooi also defined and put into perspective what is meant by the Southeast Asian region, how it came about and a brief stock-take of regionalism in Southeast Asia.

Click here to read the full article by The Straits Times.

 

Happy 2015 from the ASEAN Studies Centre at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies!

2015 is off to a good start with the ASEAN Open Skies likely to be implemented this year.

ASEAN Briefing reports "If ASEAN-SAM is successfully implemented, there will be no regulatory limits on the frequency or capacity of flights between international airports across the 10 ASEAN member countries. Tellingly, not included in the current agreement are steps towards opening up ASEAN aviation to common ownership, in a market still very much populated by state-owned airlines."

Click here for the full article by ASEAN Briefing

ASC's Rodolfo Severino shared his views with the East Asia Forum on ASEAN's quiet achievements over the recent years.
Click here for the article published by the East Asia Forum

 

The ASEAN Secretariat reports that ASEAN will work closely with the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management (AHA Centre) to continuously monitor the situation in the Philippines with regards to Typhoon Hagupit. The ASEAN Secretary-General also expressed his sympathy and commended the Government of the Philippines "for its early warning efforts and implementation of disaster preparedness plans which have prevented greater losses and damages."

Click here to read the report by the ASEAN Secretariat.

“There are at least four or five options on the table. The modalities, based on which negotiations need to move, could not be agreed in this round. Negotiations will resume in the next round to be held in Thailand from 9-13 February,” a commerce ministry official said speaking under condition of anonymity.

Click here to read the report by Live Mint.

ChannelNewsAsia- In 2007, ASEAN leaders agreed to accelerate the regional economic integration. Known as ASEAN Economic Community or AEC, it will transform the region into a single market by 31 December 2015. But just a year before the 2015 deadline, has ASEAN been able to live up to its goal?

ASC's Sanchita Basu Das shares her view with ChannelNewsAsia on the ASEAN Community 2015. Click here to watch the video.

With the RCEP negotiations recently concluded ASC's Sanchtia Basu Das shares her views with the East Asia Forum on whether the mega-regional represents a "new paradigm’ of regional trade agreements or not".

Click here to read the full article by the East Asia Forum.
A PDF copy can be obtained at this link

 

With rising tensions in East Asia, does it still make sense to think about cooperation in the Asia-Pacific in terms of regional architectures today? What are the challenges facing efforts at building institutions and regimes for the region and how can they be overcome? What can be a useful approach to managing relations in the region?

 

The Department of Japanese Studies and Department of Political Science at National University of Singapore has jointly hosted a three-part series on “Regional Architecture and Frameworks for Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific”

 

The second part of the series was held on 19 November 2014. It was a public symposium on "Competition and Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific: Recognising Challenges, Seizing Opportunities", in which ASC's Head, Rodolfo Severino was part of the discussion panel.

Some of the issues addressed at the symposium on 19 November included:

  • Is China rising peacefully? How should other regional actors respond to a rising China?
  • Is a power-shift (the rise of China and the decline of the US) really taking place in the Asia-Pacific? If so, how does it affect the strategy of regional actors such as Japan, China, the US, India and ASEAN?
  • What is the best approach to managing rising tensions in East Asia?
  • What is the outcome of the APEC summit in 2014?
  • What is the prospect of further cooperation in the Asia-Pacific? 

 

The final part of the series will be held next month. The details are as follow:

Date: 9 January 2015
Time: 6:00-7:30 pm
Venue: Auditorium, Shaw Foundation Alumni House, National University of Singapore Kent Ridge Campus (11 Kent Ridge Drive)

Registration  is compulsory and available at this link

For more information, please click here.

 

 

Moe Thuzar, Lead Researcher for Socio-Cultural Affairs of ASC discusses on ASEAN Integration in the new article "ASEAN Integration: Translating a Vision into Reality", published in Young Academic's Voice forum on 1 November 2014.

Click here for the full article.

 

Naypyitaw, Myanmar, saw a flurry of activity in mid-November, as Myanmar – this year’s ASEAN Chair - held the 25th ASEAN Summit and related key meetings held in conjunction with the ASEAN Summit.

These meetings included the East Asia Summit (EAS), ASEAN Plus Three Summit, individual summit meetings with leaders from China, Japan, the United States, India, and with the United Nations Secretary-General. To celebrate 40 years of dialogue relations, the ASEAN-Australia Commemorative Summit was also held at Naypyitaw.

In addition, the ASEAN leaders also had a session with the ASEAN Business Advisory Council, which provided recommendations from the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit which also convened in Naypyitaw together with the ASEAN Summit.

Click here for a summary of the events as well as ASC's participation.

 

On Monday, 17 November 2014, Her Excellency Dr Angela Merkel, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, delivered the annual Lowy Lecture at the Westin in Sydney.

Click here for a full transcript of the lecture.

You can also watch the entire lecture on Youtube at the link below

Related Video

Some observers say Myanmar played a key role in pulling the member nations together on this issue. "The chair has the responsibility to make sure that they have consensus and that's what's most important. I think Myanmar was able to do that very efficiently and I think you have to give credit to Myanmar," said Kavi Chongkittavorn, senior fellow at Chulalongkorn University’s Institute of Security and International Studies.

Click here for the full article by ChannelNewsAsia.

The Diplomat's David Gitter suggests "Southeast Asian nations should consider how China perceives ASEAN and what goals it hopes to gain from its interactions with the bloc"

Click here for the full article by The Diplomat

The New Straits Times Reports "Nine of the 10 Asean countries have laws related to electronic transactions, while eight have those concerned with cybercrime. All but one have a national cybersecurity programme."

Clik here to read the full article.

The latest issue in the ISEAS Economics Working Papers series, "The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership: New Paradigm or Old Wine in a New Bottle?" by Sanchita Basu Das and Reema B Jagtiani has just been published.

Clik here to download the paper.

The Malaymail Online reports of a private-sector initative by AirAsia that is likely to boost regional tourism in the ASEAN region.

Dubbed the “Asean Pass”, the airline will offer a 10-flight pass at a flat rate of RM499 and a 20-flight pass that is expected to cost under RM1,000, said AirAsia Group chief executive officer Tan Sri Tony Fernandes.

Click here for the full article by The MalayMail Online.

The gathering in Bagan, central Myanmar, was the first of its kind to boost security ties between Tokyo and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

A Japanese government source said Eto emphasized the importance of Japan-ASEAN cooperation in regional security, telling defense chiefs, “no country can maintain peace alone.”

Click here for the full article by The Japan Times

 

SINGAPORE: Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen attended the ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting (ADMM) Retreat from Tuesday (Nov 18) to Wednesday in Bagan, Myanmar, where ASEAN Defence Ministers discussed regional security issues and welcomed progress in practical cooperation.

Click here for a brief report by ChannelNewsAsia

THE Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP), which generally promises greater benefits than other regional trade pacts currently under negotiation, has finally got off the ground a decade after it was first broached by Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) leaders...

Click here to read the full article published by the Straits Times.
Click here for a PDF of the hardcopy edition.

"For political and security, the emphasis should be on supporting the ASEAN centrality," said Termsak Chalermpalanupap, leading researcher for political and security affairs at the ASEAN Studies Center of Singapore's Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.

Click here for an assessment by The Global Times

Voice of America Reports- 

Thein Sein cautioned that one year before the launch of the ASEAN Economic Community, which is supposed to create a single market, “challenges remain in implementing the remaining 20 percent of the targets and addressing the issues that will emerge in the post-2015 ASEAN Community.”

Click here for a the full article by Voice of America

The Financial Times shares their views on five significant points about ASEAN based on a recent McKinsey report.

Click here to read the full article published by the Financial Times.

 

The Head of the ASEAN Studies Centre at ISEAS, Rodolfo Severino speaks to VOA Asia in "ASEAN Summit in Myanmar Won't Be About Breakthroughs"

Click here to read the article published by Voice of America Asia or click the link below for the video.

 

Related Video

Beijing signalled yesterday that it plans to use next week's Apec summit to promote a new Asian trade pact to have a bigger say in the region, a push widely seen as a countermeasure to the proposed US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement...

Click here to read the full article published by the South China Morning Post.

Click here for a PDF of the hardcopy edition.

On 24 October 2014, the ASEAN Studies Centre at ISEAS organised a Workshop on "ASEAN-Korea Partnership: 25 Years of Striving for Cooperation and Prosperity".

Click here for a summary of the workshop.

 

Aaron Connelly speaks with SBS producer Andrea Booth about Indonesia and the futre of its relationship with Australia and ASEAN under the Jokowi Government.

Click here for a transcript of the interview.

Trade officials from 16 Asia-Pacific countries kicked off Monday the intercessional meeting of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP) to accelerate talks.

Read more at Asia One.

In recent years, the South China Sea has become a key area of concern for the ASEAN organization. In the face of an increasingly expansionary China, ASEAN has often seemed slow to react and unsure of what strategy it should pursue. While there are options in place, such as the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), there has been little unity in the actions of the ten member nations.

Click here for a perspective of the issue by "ASEAN Briefing"

The 25th ASEAN Summit is around the corner. One question worth asking is: How committed is the U.S. to the pivot to ASEAN?

Click here for an assessment by The Diplomat.

Where manufacturers in China and the 10 members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) -- Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam -- were once competitors, today their output is increasingly complementary, especially in more specialised manufacturing sectors; trade in services is expanding rapidly and investment flows are turning from a trickle to a flood.
Trade flows between China and ASEAN are driven as much by the evolution of regional production networks and trade integration initiatives as they are by rising regional domestic demand.

Click here for the full article at the Daily Mirror.

For more details or to register for the workshop, please click here.

Registration is available until 5pm on 23 October 2014

 

The Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) convened the High-Level Conference on The Evolving Nature of ASEAN’s Economic Cooperation: Original Vision and Current Practice on 9 October 2014 at ISEAS, Singapore. The Conference sought to review the original motivations for ASEAN and reflect on how it has evolved over time. It facilitated an open discussion between the early thinkers of ASEAN (mainly ASEAN-5) and its current practitioners to spell out the recommendations for the future.

For a summary report on the conference, click here.

ISEAS's Dr Malcolm Cook shares his views with Asia Matters for America, a publication by the East-West Center on Singapore Key to US Partnership with Southeast Asia.

...Fortunately, what is good for Singapore and the US is also good for Southeast Asia as a whole. Singapore’s historic role as an entrepot economy has long positioned Singapore as the economic link between Southeast Asia and the rest of the world as shown by re-exports accounting for 45% of Singapore’s total exports in 2013. Singapore’s successful promotion of itself as a site for MNCs to locate their regional headquarters also means that an increasing amount of FDI into Singapore is for companies to expand their presence in the region as a whole, meaning that these headquarters in effect account for a growing share of Singaporean FDI to Southeast Asia....

Click here to read the full article by the East-West Center.

 

ABS-CBN reports that ASEAN integration may create as many as 3.1 million jobs in the Philippines

... Medium-skilled employment, meanwhile, could grow by around 25 percent. This includes clerks, craft and related trade workers, plant and machine operators and assemblers, and service and sales workers...

Click here for the full article at ABS-CBN.

Chairman of the EU-Malaysia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EUMCCI), Fermin Fautsch, spoke with reporters from Bernama at the EU-Asean Forum on Food Safety in Kuala Lumpur on13 October 2014.

He said defining the standards, like efforts on determining the shelf life, traceability, cold chain management and labelling, would play a role in giving greater confidence to consumers. "If such standards are brought to the Asean level, it obviously would help facilitate more trade," he added.

For more information, click here to read the article by Yahoo News.

ASC researchers Moe Thuzar and Termsak Chalermpalanupap were part of an ISEAS team that participated in the development of a working paper on implementation challenges and coordination arrangements for connecting South and Southeast Asia, as part of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and ADB Institute (ADBI) flagship study on “Connecting South Asia and Southeast Asia. The ADBI has published the paper online here.

The ADB-ADBI flagship study analyses how closer regional connectivity and regional economic integration between South and Southeast Asia can benefit both subregions.

Click here for the Interim Report for the study  and background information on the project as provided on the ADBI website.

ISEAS's Dr Asad Latif shares his views with Asia Matters for America, a publication by the East-West Center on The Case for an ASEAN Caucus in the US Congress.

...ASEAN is America’s fourth-largest trading partner after Canada, Mexico and China, while the US is ASEAN’s third-largest trading partner – a relationship that creates about 560,000 jobs for Americans. Indeed, investments by ASEAN members in the US rose by more than an astonishing 1,440 per cent to US$27.5 billion in 2012, up from US$1.8 billion in 2001...


Click here to read the full article by the East-West Center.

 

For more details on the conference, please click here.

Please note however that registration is now closed. Thank you for your interest

 

... Asean supported calls for the international community to work together to fight terrorism and extremism, while it also backed the UN Security Council resolutions passed last week that aim to compel countries to take measures to stem the flow of foreign fighters to militant groups...


Click here for the full report by the Straits Times.

Click here to watch a video on and read the official remarks by John Kerry, Secretary of State at the recent US-ASEAN Ministerial Meeting, by the US Department of State.

 

"...AEC’s impact on the region’s employment prospects comes from two channels—first from the structural changes in domestic economies; and second from the AEC’s promotion of free movement of skilled labour through the establishment of Mutual Recognition Arrangements (MRAs) of professional services. With structural change overtime, the AEC can potentially boost the region’s GDP by 7.1 per cent by 2025 and generate 14 million jobs in the process..."

The Guest Writer Sukti Dasgupta and the ASC's Sanchita Basu Das  will discuss the impact of AEC on the labour market through the channel of structural change, skills, productivity and wages in ISEAS Perspective, first published on 22nd September 2014.

To read the full article, please click here.