Food security is a challenge for ASEAN

26 10 2013

By Riza Bernabe

With the establishment of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) barely two years away, leaders in the region are busy trying to implement economic policies that will put into operation Asean’s vision of a common regional market. Asean aspires to become a single market by 2015, where goods, services and investments can freely flow among its 10 member-countries. It aims to become a vital segment in the global supply chain.
The expressed goal behind the creation of the AEC is sustainable and equitable development. But for millions of people in this part of the world, the true value and test of any regional development plan rest on its ability to sustainably and effectively address hunger and poverty.
In the last few decades Southeast Asia had made substantial gains in reducing hunger. The 2013 report of the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization shows that the region has exhibited the biggest decline in terms of number of undernourished people—from 140 million in the 1990s to 80.5 million in 2008-2010, and most recently, to 64.5 million from 2011 to the present. The prevalence of undernourishment also decreased from 31.1 percent of the population to 10.7 percent over the same period. Poverty levels also went down, as the number of people in the region living below the poverty line of $1.25 per day dropped from close to half (45.5 percent) of the population in the 1990s to 14.7 percent in 2010.
Still, the challenge of meeting the food security needs of the 64.5 million undernourished people in the region remains. Moreover, new and emerging challenges threaten the sustainability of these gains.
Climate change, in the form of increased occurrences of extreme weather events like typhoons, droughts and heavy rainfall, changes in temperature and rising sea levels to name a few, is intensifying uncertainties in agricultural production and increasing the incidence of crop failures. Various studies have identified Southeast Asia as one of the regions most vulnerable to climate change impacts.
Land and water grabbing exacerbated by the unregulated entry of private-sector investments in the sector and in land and water resources are displacing small agricultural producers. All across the region, unregulated private-sector investments in agriculture and related land acquisitions are pushing farmers out of their farms, and depriving them of their source of food and means of livelihood.
Food price volatility is putting food beyond the reach of many, especially the poor. The 2008 rice price crises, which saw prices of the staple grain surging from $370 per metric ton to $764 per metric ton over the span of a few months, exposed the need for improved regional cooperation in addressing food (especially rice) price and supply issues in Southeast Asia.
Many of these challenges require regional solutions, and Asean is in a position to develop and implement region-wide responses to these problems. The passage of the Asean Charter in 2007 gives it the mandate to develop rules and policies to bring to life its vision of developing, in its words, a caring and sharing regional community.
The good news is that Asean need not start from scratch in addressing these challenges. It has existing platforms, such as the Asean Integrated Food Security Framework (AIFS), the Asean Climate Change Initiative (ACCI) and the Asean Multisectoral Framework on Climate Change: Agriculture and Forestry Toward Food Security (AFCC), among others, which can serve as the springboard in providing solutions to these problems. However, it is important that Asean enhance and broaden these platforms so that these tackle and adopt strategic regional responses to the challenges discussed earlier.
For instance, Asean must intensify current initiatives under the AFCC to implement regional initiatives on climate change. It must provide venues as well as systems through which member-countries can share knowledge and information on how to strengthen communities’ resilience and capability to adapt to changing climate patterns. It must also enhance the ACCI so that this plays an important role in encouraging Asean member-countries to follow low carbon development paths, such as by creating regional programs and initiatives that support sustainable and agro-ecological farming methods and the use of renewable energy sources, among others. At the global level, Asean can also draw upon members’ agreement under the ACCI to actively articulate and push for a common agenda for Southeast Asia in the international climate change negotiations.
Asean must also be open to revisiting its policies to integrate the interests and concerns of smallholder agriculture, and give voice to small farmers in its hallowed halls. It should adopt and implement policies that will respect and safeguard the rights and interest of peoples and communities against unregulated private sector investments in agriculture. More urgently, it must help address the problem of land and water grabbing by developing regional regulations that ensure that private sector investments in agriculture do not harm but support smallholder agriculture.
Asean must also enhance the AIFS, its blueprint to help realize regional food security, by ensuring that it integrates strategic programs toward stabilizing national and regional food prices and supply. It must also improve and update existing mechanisms to enable these to quickly help member countries cope with food emergencies.
More significantly, Asean must open all these platforms to engagement and inputs from civil society and various stakeholders’ groups. Its implementation of the Asean Agreement for Disaster Management and Emergency Response shows the benefits and potential of working with civil society groups in addressing emerging and urgent regional challenges.
The UN Report provides an instructive insight into what types of policies can help reduce hunger and promote development. It highlighted the importance of investing in agriculture, particularly in improving the productivity of smallholder agriculture and in increasing peoples’ access to food, as crucial to addressing food insecurity. It also highlighted the value of supporting women, noting that investments targeting women go a long way in improving farm productivity, incomes and food security. The fact that smallholder agriculture remains a significant segment in the economy of many Asean member countries underscores the value of this finding.
As Asean moves toward 2015, its leaders must keep in mind the mandate set out in its charter—to “ensure sustainable development for the benefit of future and present generations and to place the wellbeing, livelihood and welfare of peoples at the center of the community building process.” It is by adopting and implementing regional and national policies that support smallholder agriculture and safeguard the rights of small agricultural producers that Asean can deliver on this mandate.

Riza Bernabe is the policy and research coordinator for Oxfam’s GROW Campaign in East Asia.

From :

Philippine Daily Inquirer

Xi and Li Upgraded China-ASEAN Relations

24 10 2013

By Zhai Kun, director of the Institute of World Political Studies, CICIR

In October, both President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang completed their first official visits to Southeast Asia, the region of preference in Chinese diplomacy with its neighboring countries. Xi went to Indonesia and Malaysia and attended APEC meeting at Bali, while Li attended the annual ASEAN summit in Brunei and visited Vietnam and Thailand. A word best summarizes the Chinese leaders’ visits to the area is undoubtedly “to upgrade”; during the visits, both Xi and Li put forward a series of proposals to push China-ASEAN relations to the next level. 

The first is to upgrade China’s positioning in Southeast Asia. Since the 18th Party Congress last year, ASEAN countries had complained about their absence from the agenda of Chinese leaders who visited everywhere—Russia, Africa, South Asia, Europe and Central Asia—except Southeast Asia. In fact, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who tried to demonstrate Chinese commitment to the region by mentioning his multiple travels at the China-ASEAN High-Level Forum in Thailand early August, was the only frequent visitor to the region. By the consecutive visits of the top two leaders to Southeast Asia, China attempted to highlight that the region is, indeed, a top priority in Chinese peripheral diplomacy. 

The second is to upgrade the mission of China-ASEAN partnership. Xi proposed to build a China-ASEAN “community of common destiny.” The renewed mission to build the community of common destiny was initiated at the 18th Party Congress and first addressed during the annual meeting of Boao Forum for Asia in April. In addition to Xi’s ambitious proposal to build the new community, Premier Li, at the China-ASEAN Expo held in Nanning last September, praised that China-ASEAN relations had experienced a golden decade and urged to create a “diamond decade” in the future. 

The third is to upgrade the China-ASEAN relations. Premier Li insisted that China and ASEAN should promote a good-neighbor friendship and sign cooperation treaties to provide legal and institutional guarantees for their strategic cooperation and guidelines for further development of the bilateral relations. He praised China-Brunei relations as exemplary of big and small countries treating each other as equals and China-Thailand relations a big power playing a demonstrative and guiding role for the other. And with Vietnam, Li derived the agreement to set up three working groups to develop maritime, land and financial cooperation respectively. In accordance with Li’s initiatives, President Xi elevated Chinese relationships with both Indonesia and Malaysia to comprehensive strategic partnerships. 

The fourth is to upgrade the China-ASEAN cooperation. China proposed  negotiations to upgrade the current version of China-ASEAN Free Trade Area, as it aims to reach USD 1 trillion in bilateral trade by 2020. Other proposals include: advancing China-ASEAN Defense Ministers’ meeting, negotiating a code of conduct in the South China Sea, building a maritime silk road and connectivity projects, and creating an Asian infrastructure investment bank. Xi and Li made it clear that both Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) are options for the countries in the region and that partnerships would be complementary and transparent. 

Judging from the above, the new Chinese leaders have been quite proactive and open towards Southeast Asia with a focus on development and without dodging security issues, an attitude quite well accepted by most ASEAN countries. In a situation where US President Obama was absent from the region due to the government shutdown, the various Chinese proposals are quite aligned with the mainstream desire of the Asia-Pacific region for development. 

It can be expected that when China-ASEAN relations move forward, the competitions among the major powers in the Southeast Asia will also heat up. Ten years ago, China put forward a series of creative policies to strengthen its cooperation with ASEAN; it signed the China-ASEAN FTA and the Treaty of Amity (TAC) and Cooperation and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC) with the US, Japan, South Korea, India and Australia. All the countries that were part of TAC and DOC signed FTAs with ASEAN and gradually developed their relations to more strategic ones. The 10+3 has expanded to 10+6 and then to East Asian Summit. The intertwined negotiations and agreements among the major powers have created new dynamism in the Asia-Pacific, in which the involved nations cooperate and simultaneously compete against one other. As a result, ASEAN has gained a higher strategic position and succeeded in its strategy to balance major powers. 

Although China has now gained an edge over all of its competitors, it is too early to open the champagne as the U.S. is expected to outstrip its performance. While Xi and Li played the cards of economy and cooperation, the US Secretary of State John Kerry persuaded young leaders of ASEAN countries that the future would belong to them. The U.S. offers a variety of exchange programs targeting scholars, students, young people, young professionals and others with a view to promote social and cultural exchanges between the U.S. and Southeast Asia. According to the U.S. State Department, the five-year higher education partnership program in Indonesia, with 165 million dollars from USAID, will provide more opportunities for learning, researches and cultural exchanges, strengthen partnership among college students and enhance the quality of education. China may have charmed the ASEAN countries with strategic partnerships but it seems the U.S. is the overall winner of the ASEAN-related competition as it provides the region with more fundamental solutions for future development. From this perspective, while upgrading its relations with ASEAN, China should also pay attention to upgrading the China-ASEAN-US interactions. 

Zhai Kun is a director of the Institute of World Political Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

From :

China-US Focus

Key Takeaways of the 23rd ASEAN Summit and 8th East Asia Summit

21 10 2013

By Peter Tan Keo

Leaders concluded their two-day meeting in Brunei this week for the 23rd ASEAN Summit and 8th East Asia Summit, from October 9-10.  Other high-profile meetings included the ASEAN-China Summit, the first ASEAN-US Summit, ASEAN-Japan Summit, ASEAN-ROK Summit, ASEAN-India Summit, and ASEAN Plus Three Summit.

The South China Sea and trade took center stage, along with Chinese premier Li Keqiang.

The biggest issue was the South China Sea disputes.  No major breakthrough was made, though in a joint statement during the ASEAN-China Summit, leaders noted that ASEAN and China will continue to “work towards the conclusion of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea on the basis of consensus.” China continues to pursue bilateral dialogues, while the US, Japan and some ASEAN members push for multilateral dialogues.  Chinese Premier Li sent a clear message to the US to mind its business over the South China Sea, addressing ASEAN members during the 8th EAS.  Following the ASEAN-China meeting, the 10-nation ASEAN met with US Secretary of State John Kerry, who continued to stress the importance of passing a Code of Conduct (COC) over the South China Sea.

Reiterating almost verbatim what President Obama said last year, during the 7th EAS in Phnom Penh, Secretary Kerry encouraged China and ASEAN claimants to expedite the drafting of the COC, which builds on the decades-old Declaration on the Conduct of Parties (DOC). The COC is a legally-binding agreement and the DOC is a non-binding agreement.

Trade talks between ASEAN members and its dialogue partners received the most progress during the meetings in Brunei.

Perhaps the biggest highlight was between ASEAN and India.  Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressed the 11th ASEAN-India Summit on Thursday.  India is sending its own resident ambassador to Jakarta, signaling a commitment to deeper engagement in ASEAN.  India is also prepared to sign a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the 10-nation regional association, hoping to boost bilateral trade to US $100 billion by 2015.  The FTA is likely to increase trade by US $25 billion in two years.  It’s projected to be signed in December 2013 when leaders meet again in Bali.

The 23rd ASEAN Summit was preceded by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings in Bali, Indonesia.  US President Barack Obama cancelled his trips to both APEC and ASEAN at the last minute, resulting from an unresolved federal government shutdown back home.  Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li took this opportunity to push a Chinese-centric agenda.  With Obama’s absence, some notable events included the Chinese president addressing the Indonesian legislature, the first time ever by a foreign leader.  That demonstrates not only China’s growing, if not voracious, appetite for its involvement in the region, particularly to boost regional economies, but also ASEAN’s interest in welcoming the world’s second largest economy.  It was clear that without Obama Chinese leaders made a lot of noise in its favor. 

Indeed, Obama’s cancellation to Asia was a huge mistake.  At the very least, it demonstrates a flip-floppy approach to the world’s fastest growing region, one from which the US is likely to benefit.  Russian leader Vladimir Putin was also not present during the ASEAN Summit, though his absence garnered little press.

Next year’s ASEAN Summit will be hosted by President Thein Sein in Myanmar.  Some people have voiced concerns over whether it is prepared to take the ASEAN chairmanship.

Each year, ASEAN always seems to find a way to wiggle its way up to the top. With a population of half a billion and a GDP of a trillion US dollars, this regional association has become a force of nature – though long-standing flaws need to be addressed, sooner rather than later, such as the outdated non-intervention policy.  It can’t rely solely on economic prosperity among member states if it wants to be taken seriously, by the world, as a global leader.

From :

US-China-ASEAN Forum

China’s rebalancing strategies to ASEAN

21 10 2013

By Kavi Chongkittavorn

China has devised a set of comprehensive rebalancing strategies to Asean focusing on Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. They would strengthen Bejing’s new diplomatic strongholds under the fifth generation leader, President Xi Jinping. Given the present regional strategic environment, Asean is the top priority of China’s foreign policy towards neighbouring countries.

Two distinctive features of China’s latest diplomatic charm offensive – long-term economic engagement and increased security commitment. The three Asean countries are major trading partners with China. Their two-way trade volume – with emphasis on “balanced trade” – would surpass US$500 billion over the overall target of Asean-China trade worth US$1 trillion in 2020. Furthermore, they are the grouping’s core members with weighty influence that goes beyond their borders. Indonesia and Malaysia are also the world’s leading moderate Muslim countries and non-aligned members.

Upon a close scrutiny, the Asean trips were also related to strategic prepositioning of China in the mainland and maritime Southeast Asian nations. Beijing’s new blueprints come amid increased fluidity of power relations within Asean and their relations with major powers. Washington has already outlined its Asian pivot and Tokyo also became more assertive diplomatically. Both have forged closer maritime security cooperation with Asean members, which are connected to the South China Sea disputes.

On the mainland Southeast Asia, Thailand has emerged as China’s closest friend – a virtual ally of sort – although it still does not have the traditional security arrangements as the US has enjoyed. Apart from growing economic interdependence, Thailand and China have agreed to increase both traditional and non-traditional cooperation including joint training of their special forces. Since December 2011, Thailand, Laos and Myanmar have been cooperative security partners with China patrolling the region’s longest river, Mekong – the first multilateral security forces China engaged with foreign countries.

In coming decade, Beijing will rely on its geostrategic position linking China’s southern region with the mainland’s Asean countries. China has been the major dialogue partner taking up the master plan of Asean Connectivity seriously. During their visits, both Xi and Li made clear of China’s readiness to invest in connectivity plans, particular the North-South corridor.

In Thailand, Li called on the Thai politicians to back the multi-billion dollars high-speed train project linking Yunnan to Bangkok, via Vientiane, in his speech at the Thai Parliament. In the future, the railway could be extended to Malaysia and Singapore.

As the chair of Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders’ Meeting next year, the connectivity theme will also reflect on China’s agenda. Other dialogue countries, while expressed interests in the Asean connectivity, have not approached Aean with financial packages. In this case, the plan to establish an infrastructure bank by Beijing is useful – so far Asean has not been able to garner sufficient fund for many super infrastructural projects. The Asian Development Bank says Asean would need at least US$60 billion annually.

Further south, China’s policy towards Malaysia is distinctive due to the huge presence of oversea Chinese and currently the No. 1 Asean trading nation with China. As a conflicting party to the South China Sea dispute, Malaysia has been discreet – and very cool headed too – in pursuing bilateral negotiations and Asean sanction process. Together with Brunei, Malaysia is another claimant that has cordial ties with China.

From Beijing’s vantage points, Malaysia has been listed as a friendly country, along with Indonesia that treats China as a comprehensive partner not a threat. Malaysia’s pan-Asia preference in 1990’s still has a strong resonance in Beijing today. Kuala Lumpur also invited Beijing to attend the first Asean meeting in July 1991, which subsequently led to current status as the grouping’s most extensive bilateral relations.

In the maritime Southeast Asia, Indonesia stands out as the most important country for China. When Xi visited Jakarta and became the first foreign leader to address the National Assembly, it was a barometer of the extent both countries were willing to accommodate with each other. With further democratic consolidation and rising regional status, Indonesia is not shy to engage China in security and strategic matters. Jakarta has come up with several proposals to break the impasse of South China Sea quagmire as well as preventive and management of conflict in Asean and beyond.

When Li spoke of China’s Treaty of Friendship and Neighborliness with Asean, he credited Indonesia’s earlier idea of collective security in the region. With Beijing and Jakarta on the same page on strategic matters, the chance of misunderstanding between the world’s second economic power and third largest democracy would be minimal – a far cry from four decades ago when China was viewed with hostility

From :

The Nation

Food (in) security in ASEAN

18 10 2013

By Riza Bernabe

With the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) barely two years away, leaders in the region are busy trying to implement economic policies that will put into operation ASEAN’s vision of a common regional market.

But for millions of people in this part of the world, the genuine success of a regional development plan rests on its ability to sustainably and effectively address hunger and poverty.

Over the last few decades Southeast Asia had charted substantial gains in reducing hunger. The 2013 report of the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization shows that the region has exhibited the biggest decline in terms of number of undernourished people from 140 million people in the 1990s to 64.5 million from 2011 to the present.

The number of people in the region living below the poverty line of US$1.25 per day also dropped from almost half of the population in the 1990s to 14.7 percent of the population in 2010. Still, the challenge of feeding 64.5 million mouths remains with new and emerging challenges threatening the sustainability of these gains.

Various studies have identified Southeast Asia as one of the world’s most vulnerable to climate change impacts. The phenomenon, manifested in the form of increased occurrences of extreme weather events like typhoons, droughts and heavy rainfall, changes in temperatures and rising sea levels, has resulted in increasing incidents of crop failure. This not only hurts the region’s food security, but also further puts small-scale farmers under massive pressure.

The 2007-2008 food price crisis gives a perfect glimpse of what kind of social chaos food insecurity could cause when hundreds of thousands of angry people took to street calling for quick solutions.

The spike, which saw prices of the staple grains surging from $370 per metric ton to $764 per metric ton over the span of a few months, exposed the need for improved regional cooperation in addressing food — especially rice — price and supply issues in Southeast Asia. Unfortunately, this unrest also spurred a new trend — land and water grabbing.

Countries with weak land and resource management laws such as Asia, Africa and Latin America are prime targets of land investors. The unregulated acquisitions, which were often unlawful and without consent, have displaced hundreds of thousands of small-scale farmers and fishers, turning their farmlands and community forests into large commercial plantations of fuel or food crops aimed for export.

Many of these challenges require regional solutions and ASEAN is in a position to develop and implement region-wide responses to these problems.

The good news is that ASEAN need not start from scratch in addressing these challenges. It has existing platforms, such as the ASEAN Integrated Food Security Framework (AIFS), the ASEAN Climate Change Initiative (ACCI) and the ASEAN Multi-sectoral Framework on Climate Change: Agriculture and Forestry toward Food Security (AFCC), among others, which can serve as the springboard in providing solutions to these problems.

ASEAN must urgently help address the problem of land and water grabs by developing regional regulations that ensure private sector investments in agriculture support smallholder agriculture. It must be open to revisiting its policies to integrate the interests and concerns of small-scale producers. This means adopting and implementing policies that will respect and safeguard their rights and interests.

Through AFCC, members of ASEAN could actively share knowledge and information on how to strengthen communities’ resilience and capability to adapt to changing climate patterns. The ACCI must be served as a platform to encourage the ASEAN countries to follow low carbon development paths. At the global level, ASEAN can also draw upon the members’ agreement under the ACCI to articulate and push for a common agenda for Southeast Asia in the international climate change negotiations.

ASEAN must also ensure that AIFS integrates programs that stabilize national and regional food prices and supply as well as put in place improved and updated mechanisms that quickly help member countries cope with food emergencies.

More significantly, ASEAN must open all these platforms to engagement and inputs from civil society and various stakeholders groups. The regional coalition’s implementation of the ASEAN Agreement for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (AADMER) shows the benefits and potential of working with civil society groups in addressing emerging and urgent regional challenges.

As ASEAN moves toward 2015, its leaders must keep in mind the mandate set out in its charter, that is to “ensure sustainable development…and to place the well-being, livelihood and welfare of peoples at centre of community building process”. It is by adopting and implementing policies that support smallholder agriculture and safeguard the rights of small agricultural producers that ASEAN can deliver on this mandate.

Riza Bernabe is policy and research coordinator for Oxfam’s GROW campaign in East Asia.

From :

The Jakarta Post

China-ASEAN: A community of common destiny

9 10 2013

By Wei Ling

The year 2013 marks the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the China-Asean strategic partnership. Premier Li Keqiang will attend the East Asia leaders’ meeting in Brunei from October 9 to 10, among which the highlight will be the 16th China-Asean leaders’meeting.

Standing at a new historical starting point, the summit between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will indicate the strategic direction of China-Asean relations and draw a blueprint for bilateral relations. It will have far-reaching consequences for economic integration as well as political and security landscape of East Asia and the entire Asia-Pacific region.

In 2003, China-Asean relations were upgraded to a strategic partnership. China was the first to establish a strategic partnership with Asean, the first to sign the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, and the first to start free trade area negotiations with Asean.

The three initiatives of China not only started a “golden decade” of China-Asean relations and built a favourable environment for China’s development, but also provided the most important driving force for East Asian peace, prosperity and integration, transforming East Asian political culture from suspicion and confrontation to cooperation and development.

The new Chinese government initiated intensive diplomatic interaction with Asean members this year and proposed a series of new ideas and measures to deepen cooperation in East Asia, especially China-Asean cooperation.

This not only successfully defused the political crisis facing bilateral cooperation after the South China Sea disputes flared up in 2010, but also quickly carved a new situation for China’s East Asian diplomacy and created new opportunities for a “diamond decade” of China-Asean relations in the future.

While attending the Boao Forum for Asia in April, President Xi Jinping stressed that China will further promote friendship and partnership with its neighbours, and ensure that China’s development will bring even greater benefits to its neighbours. In September, Li attended the opening ceremony of the 10th China-Asean Expo and delivered a keynote speech, saying China’s good-neighbour policy toward Asean is not a matter of expediency, but a long-term strategic option of China.

In September, Beijing held a series of events to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the China-Asean strategic partnership, and the Asean secretary-general and foreign ministers of all Asean members attended the activities. In October, in the wake of Xi’s Southeast Asia tour to Indonesia and Malaysia, Li will attend the East Asia leaders’ meetings and pay official visits to Brunei, Thailand and Vietnam.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi has paid five visits to Southeast Asia. Within just half a year, the new leadership has had face-to-face talks with nearly all Asean heads of state.

China has proposed to build a China-Asean community of common destiny, discuss with Asean members the prospect of concluding a treaty of friendship and cooperation, create an upgraded version of the China-Asean Free Trade Area, establish an Asia infrastructure investment bank and build China-Asean think-tank networks. These new strategic initiatives, at a crucial time of China-Asean relations, will not only greatly promote China-Asean mutually beneficial cooperation and common development, but once again lead the overall peace and cooperation process in East Asia.

The proposal to build a China-Asean community of common destiny showed China’s political commitment and determination to promote good-neighbour friendship and deepen strategic mutual trust with Asean. It is not an expedient measure, but a long-term strategy; not an empty slogan, but has real policy implications and action plans.

To build a China-Asean community of destiny, China will continue prioritising Asean members in the country’s peripheral diplomacy, deepening China-Asean strategic partnership and working together with Asean to maintain regional peace and stability.

Meanwhile, China will firmly support Asean’s development and growth, the construction of Asean community, and Asean’s leading role in East Asian cooperation.

among Asean’s dialogue partners, China is a latecomer, but China-Asean partnership has become the most comprehensive and most substantial relationship.

The experience of China’s success is to respect the Asean way and carry out pragmatic cooperation. Respecting the Asean way is to support Asean to play a leading and central role in regional cooperation processes and support Asean connectivity and integration.

The Asean-led model is the only proven viable way for East Asian integration, and Asean connectivity and integration constitute the necessary conditions for a wider range of East Asian integration.

China’s rise toward a great power must have roots in East Asia, and its dream of revival will come true only in the process of sharing development fruits and making common progress with regional countries.

Building the China-Asean community of common destiny created a major strategic opportunity and opened up bright prospects for the common development of China and Asean. The community is not an exclusive alliance, but a necessary condition and an important guarantee for regional peace and prosperity.

The process of East Asian cooperation is open-ended, and the open regionalism is also an important experience that retains vitality in regional processes. It can be said that China-Asean relations are the most important relationship concerning the overall political, security arrangements and economic integration in East Asia.

Wei Ling is director of East Asian Studies Centre at the China Foreign Affairs University.

From :

China Daily

ASEAN On Way Of Playing Dominant Role In East Asian Cooperation

8 10 2013

Under the theme of “Our People, Our Future Together,” the 23rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit and related summits will be held on Wednesday and Thursday, marking the last multilateral opportunity for Asian-Pacific leaders this year to discuss the process of regional cooperation.

According to China’s Xinhua news agency, Asean now is gradually demonstrating its potential to be a dominant player in the East Asian cooperation process, as the summits not only involved all leaders of the Asean members and of Asean’s dialogue partners, but also attracted those from Russia and the United States.

The 10-nation bloc has set the year of 2015 as its due date to accomplish an economic community after its over-four-decade developments, from low-level cooperation within the Southeast Asian region to current high-level mutual beneficial cooperation with powers outside the region in widened fields and through multiplied channels.

As of now, under the Asean Charter, the bloc is becoming an important regional inter-governmental organisation and its unique path of development and cooperation has been widely recognised by the international community.

Although Asean has unveiled its ambitious plan, it, meanwhile, has to address major challenges as narrowing development gap between member countries, enhancing regional connectivity and cooperation, improving trade and investment environment, as well as its international competitiveness, so as to forming a long-expected single market and production base by 2015.

Le Luong Minh, Asean Secretary-general, however, said at the 22nd Asean Summit that the economic community has finished 77.5 percent, while the rest 22.5 percent is the most difficult parts for the bloc to fulfill and there are only two years left for Asean to meet the deadline.

One of the prior ways for Asean to achieve its blueprint by the year of 2015, according to analysts, is to enhance cohesion among the 10 members so as to better cope with internal conflicts and divergences in an effort to pave a way of widen cooperation and prosperity.

At the same time, besides Asean’s own efforts, its dialogue partners also help the bloc to realise its blueprint.

Currently, the East Asian region has witnessed the establishments of Asean free trade area and such trade areas respectively between Asean and three major regional countries, namely China, Japan and South Korea.

Under the background of ongoing negotiations of a trilateral free trade area among the three northeast Asian counties, Asean goes further and has raised a framework of “Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership(RCEP),” with relevant talks already kicked off.

Analysts said that RCEP, among other cooperative mechanisms in the East Asian region, even in the entire Asia-Pacific, will be the most operable one that will better meet regional realities.

If the partnership could be formed by the year of 2015, they went on to say, it will significantly promote regional trade liberalisation and facilitation and would lay the foundation for an Asian-Pacific free trade area.

Meanwhile, this year also marks the 10th anniversary of China-Asean strategic partnership and bilateral cooperation featured by the China-Asean free trade area has achieved fruitful results, as two-way trade amount surged five times as much as a decade ago and Asean is the third largest trading partner of China for the third straight year.

China, no doubted a most important economy in the East Asian region, has created with Asean a “golden decade” of bilateral cooperation and the two sides also obtain the confidence to create a “diamond decade,” according to Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

It is foreseeable that an upgraded China-Asean free trade area would be a main focus on the 16th China-Asean summit in a move to mull promotion of bilateral connection, sub-regional cooperation and maritime cooperation, as well as people-to-people exchanges.

Experts said that the development of the “golden decade” has accumulated experiences for the future “diamond decade” and an upgraded bilateral free trade area will demonstrate a jump of the China-Asean cooperation, which will also positively contribute to East Asian integrity.

In fact, tracing back to history, it has showed that the development of East Asia is based on multilateral cooperation with complementation, respect of diversity and harmonious existence between Asean and other regional countries and the spirit should be upheld by all regional countries.

To this end, seeking cooperation and development will still be the main theme of the Asean Summit and Related Summits and only with focuses on the issue of development, could Asean achieve its ambitious target and could the East Asian cooperation embrace a more brilliant future.

From :


5 challenges to ASEAN businesses in 2015

7 10 2013

By Wilson Lee Flores 

What is the government doing to raise our awareness and boost preparations for the coming 2015 ASEAN economic community (AEC) — envisioned to be a single market and production base for 10 countries, with 600 million consumers, US$1.9 trillion in GDP, duty-free imports and tougher competition within our region?

At the recent Asian Family Business Conference held at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) Conference Center in Makati City, I was invited to be guest speaker, with the topic “Understanding the economic implications of ASEAN integration to family business.” Here is a condensed version of my speech:

Who are the successful Philippine entrepreneurs already boldly spreading out in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and Asia?

Billionaire Ricky Razon’s International Container Services Terminal, Inc. (ICTSI) has operations at Muara in Brunei, the Jakarta and Makassar ports of Indonesia, and Yantai in China.

Carlos Chan of the Liwayway Group and Oishi brand of snacks entered Vietnam in 1997 and Myanmar in 1999; factories in Thailand and Indonesia were developed in 2006, and they’ve been pioneers and flourishing all over China.

Carlos Chan’s younger brother Ben Chan is taking his Bench fashion brand global in a breathtaking way with 83 international stores and the brand is still growing fast. Competitor Penshoppe of entrepreneur Bernie Liu is also active abroad, reportedly targeting 300 stores in ASEAN’s biggest nation, Indonesia, alone in just a few years.

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During my trip to Myanmar early this year, aside from Oishi, the other Philippine brand I saw with outdoor advertising on buses and billboards is Lucio Tan’s Asia Brewery, Inc. (ABI) energy-drink brand Cobra run by his son Michael “Mike” G. Tan. The Tan family also has diverse investments in Papua New Guinea, Guam, Hong Kong and China.

The Ayala Group, led by Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, has international businesses like Integrated Microelectronics Inc.  (with various factories from Sichuan to Guangdong provinces) and LiveIT Holdings, also Ayala Land’s property investment in Tianjin City of China, Manila Water’s projects in Vietnam, water projects in Indonesia and plans also for Myanmar.

John Gokongwei Jr. is a visionary who years ago talked to me about his dreams to go global, from his snack foods to bringing his Cebu Pacific Air across the Pacific Ocean on long-haul flights. The international business of his Universal Robina Corp. (URC) is growing at a compounded annual rate of 21 percent, and margins are higher than in the Philippine market. In ASEAN, his Vietnam sales volume yearly is now $240 million, compared to $1 billion here in the Philippines built up through 53 years. His China investments are also flourishing. 

According to Prof. Enrique “Eric” Soriano III, former group CEO of the Belo Medical Group, the United Laboratories (Unilab) of the late Jose Yao Campos has already built up huge pharmaceutical operations in Indonesia and Thailand.   

The ASEAN giants are already coming to the Philippines, too.

Kopiko of Indonesia sells its coffee to over 50 countries worldwide and distributed in the Philippines by Jun Sy, with local sales here already at a phenomenal P25 billion a year.

Former Trade & Industry Minister Roberto “Bobby” Ongpin years ago brought in Malaysian taipan Robert Kuok Hock Nien of the Shangri-La Hotel chain to invest in Philippine tourism. 

From Sept. 24 to 26 in Chengdu City in rural southwest China’s Sichuan province, I was an invited guest at the 12th World Chinese Entrepreneurs Convention with the organizers led by Thailand’s wealthiest billionaire, Charoen Pokphand Group (CP Group) boss and Forbes Asia magazine’s “Businessman of the Year” Dhanin Chearavanont. His agri-business multinational already has initial investments of P7 billion in the Philippines with a swine project in Pampanga, a broiler project in Bulacan and an aqua feed mill in Samal, Bulacan. CP Group has annual revenues of US$33 billion worldwide.

I believe five challenges confront us in this new era of opportunities:

• First, the challenge of size or scale – Last week at the convention, attended by over 3,200 top entrepreneurs from 105 countries, Hapee toothpaste owner and Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce & Industry, Inc. (FFCCCII) vice president Cecilio K. Pedro said that with the coming 2015 ASEAN economic integration, family businesses in the Philippines can really survive and flourish by either becoming bigger or remaining really small. It seems apparent that size is indeed a challenge in this coming new era.

Self-made Gibi shoe tycoon and FFCCCII vice president William Castro told me that merging, consolidating or selling off are not the only ways. He said we should study and learn from Taiwanese family businesses in the small and medium-scale enterprise (SME) category, how small firms coalesce and complement each other by producing different parts of shoes or computers to unite their strengths.

• Second, the challenge of competitive spirit – Oishi/Liwayway boss Carlos Chan shared that among the reasons for his family doing well in overseas business operations there and now in ASEAN include sheer hard work, and “not being complacent.” He added that China’s economy is huge and growing very fast, it is also “an intensely competitive market where all players work hard very hard.” He added half-jokingly: “No time for mah-jong.”

In this era of globalization, we need to make the Philippines truly more competitive, not having the same surnames on top of business and even politics for decades. We should enact anti-trust laws and not allow monopolies, duopolies or oligopolies to choke the competitive spirit in key sectors of our economy.

Indeed, in highly competitive China, you are not always No. 1 for so long. In their annual richest tycoons, the names of the top business leaders keep changing over the past 10 years. This year the No. 1 richest is Wang Jianlin, the 59-year-old founder of the Dalian Wanda realty group; in 2012 it was Zong Qinghou, boss of the Wahaha drinks group; before them the founders of the Sany group, Gome group, and Hope feeds group were all once No. 1.

• Third, the challenge of speed – Bacolod-born ethnic Chinese entrepreneur Bonnie Gamboa of the Hexagon Group of Companies shared a nugget of wisdom that I believe is applicable not only to family businesses in this era of impending 2015 ASEAN economic integration, but also for professionals.

Regarding the old saying about “big businesses eating up small businesses,” Gamboa said, “Nowadays, it’s not just size anymore that matters, but also how fast we are. In more cases, the fast can eat up the slow.”  

Indeed, we can see cases of businesses that are fast eating up or defeating rivals who are slow. Worse than slow, some businesses are stagnant as well. In our 21st century with fast-changing technologies, dynamic market conditions and robust competitors in an increasingly borderless world, speed is also important in order to survive and flourish.

Whether big conglomerates or mom-and-pop family businesses, let us increase our speed not only in business transactions, productivity, developing new strategies and ideas, but also in adapting new ideas and strategies.

• Fourth, the challenge of efficiency – This fourth challenge is not only a big and serious challenge to family businesses of all sizes, but also to the whole of Philippine society and most especially to our national government. A young, self-made entrepreneur in downtown Manila told me that not a few of the established family businesses in our society have been reluctant to invest in new machinery for decades, without calculating the advantages of sheer higher efficiency.

We should invest in better technology and more training for our people. Our government should upgrade our telecommunications, infrastructure and other essential basic services, which can enhance our competitive edge in business.

• Fifth, the challenge of having a globalized mind-set – I don’t know if it is due to our archipelagic situation or our being physically separated from much of Southeast Asia, or maybe due to our peculiar history of having Spanish and American colonizers so different culturally and politically from those of others in ASEAN, or a combination of all these factors, but it seems we in the Philippines tend to have less of an ASEAN and international mindset. 

It is true that most of us tend to think mostly of California or New York halfway around the globe when asked to think outside the Philippines, instead of Malaysia’s progressive Penang state, Thai cities Phuket and Chiang Mai, or Indonesia’s second and third largest cities of Surabaya and Bandung. 

The only places most of us know about China are Shanghai, Beijing, Xiamen or Guangzhou, not realizing that the fast-changing country is five times the size of the Euro zone region in population and staggering in sheer economic potential.

We need to wake up — not soon, not tomorrow, not in 2015 when the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) starts — but right now in order to survive and flourish! 

From :

The Philippine Star

Li Keqiang visit will boost cooperation with ASEAN

5 10 2013

By Zhou Wa

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will attend a meeting of East Asian leaders and pay an official visit to Brunei, Thailand and Vietnam from October 9 to 15, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said on Friday.

Together with President Xi Jinping’s ongoing trip to Indonesia and Malaysia, Li’s visit shows the importance China attaches to the region and will further stabilise the situation in the region, and upgrade cooperation to a new high level, analysts said.

“With the visits, China hopes to show members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations that it is a dependable partner of these countries,” said Ruan Zongze, vice president of the China Institute of International Studies.

“Beijing wants to show its neighbours that China hopes to promote a stable atmosphere for win-win cooperation, and that cooperation with China will bring more opportunities,” he added.

Wang Yizhou, a professor of global studies at Peking University, said: “China’s ties with Southeast Asian countries are subtle at the moment, given the disturbing South China Sea issue, but the visits show China’s determination and confidence to thoroughly resolve the issue.”

In Brunei, the Asean chair country in 2013, Li will attend the 16th China-Asean leaders’ meeting, the 16th Asean plus three (China, Japan and South Korea) summit and the eighth East Asia Summit.

Li will explain the Asean policy implemented by the new generation of Chinese leaders and tell Asean countries that Beijing will further develop a strategic partnership with them, resolve disputes through political dialogue, and jointly maintain regional peace and stability with them, Xinhua News Agency reported on Friday.

Li will also explore new possibilities for cooperation with leaders from Asean countries, including upgrading the free trade deal, building up the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and establishing a framework for investment and funding as well as credit rating, Xinhua said.

Although Asian countries demonstrate a momentum for continued growth, the risk of economic downturn still exists in these countries, so China and Asean countries need new mechanisms to maintain the favourable momentum, Ruan said.

“A portal for investment and funding will be highly welcomed by Asean countries, which can offer capital guarantees to those countries to implement their projects for continuing economic development and improving infrastructure and connectivity with each other,” he said.

With such a mechanism, cooperation between China and the Asean can be intensified, he added.

“To deepen cooperation, China and the Asean should also control the risks brought by some political and security problems, such as the South China Sea issue,” said Wang from Peking University.

Li is due to discuss the issue with leaders from Southeast Asian countries during his upcoming trip.

China and Asean countries should not let the South China Sea issue harm their favourable cooperation, said Wang.

But the issue only plays a small part in China-Asean ties, with cooperation being the major element of the ties, he added.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the establishment of a strategic partnership between China and the Asean. China and Asean countries have enjoyed sound relations and cooperation since the establishment.

So far, China is the top trading partner of the Asean, while Asean ranks as China’s third-largest trading partner. Bilateral trade has grown from US$55 billion in 2002 to more than $400 billion last year.

From :

China Daily

Engaging the US in a time of crisis: Obama’s sweep through ASEAN

30 09 2013

By Kavi Chongkittavorn

On October 2013 US President Barrack Obama is visiting four Asean members in one sweep through the region. He will attend two leaders’ meetings in Bali, Indonesia, and in Bandar Seri Begawan as well as make separate visits to Kuala Lumpur and Manila. To make that commitment amid the crisis in Syria and hordes of other gridlock, including the financial meltdown at home, shows the importance Washington attaches to the region. That much is clear.

When Obama came to power four years ago, he was lucky to have Hilary Rodham Clinton as Secretary of State, as she played a major role in demonstrating that the US attention on Asia was more than skin-deep. She made the region her priority throughout her tenure. In 2009, she signed the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation and patiently took part in all Asean-led meetings and won the admiration of ASEAN leaders, hiking the US profile as a key guarantor of peace and stability in the region. However, this positive imprint is wearing thin these days in this part of the world where personal touch and rapport matter.

US Secretary of State John Kerry is returning to Asia, following Obama. Despite his Vietnam credentials and history and his diplomatic credentials in the Congress, he has not been connected with the regional scheme of things. He has been too busy carrying out shuttle diplomacy throughout Europe and the Middle East and won accolades for countering Russia’s diplomatic offences in Syria and Iran. In the foreseeable future, it will give rise to concerns of inconsistency in US policies towards the region. Washington is in dire need of a Clinton-style personality and diplomacy.

Fortunately in Southeast Asia, the US is not on a head-on collision with Russia. More importantly, Moscow is not focusing on the region as it should be despite the desire to strengthen Asean-Russia relations and taking part in the grouping’s connectivity master plan in the Far East. His assertion that Russia is also an Asia-Pacific power remains rhetoric. Since the East Asia Summit (EAS) expanded to include US and Russia in 2011, no Russian president has showed up. Same with the upcoming EAS in Bandar Seri Begawan. As of now, while the US and Russia continue to squabble over Syria, another major power, China, is being left very much alone to consolidate its regional diplomacy.

Not surprisingly, China’s new Foreign Minister Wang Yi has wisely maximised this window of opportunity. He visited the ASEAN region three times in five months since his appointment in late March. His personalised diplomacy works well, a departure from his stoic predecessor Yang Jiechi. Good rapport between leaders has enabled ASEAN and China to renew engagement and make progress on overall relations and the work on the code of conduct (COC) in South China Sea. To top it all, Beijing recently initiated a people-centred foreign policy towards Asean.

In more ways than one, this new regional and international dynamic will have direct impact on the region, in particular the EAS. Both the US and China are active in shaping the EAS agenda this time around. As the premier leaders-only forum in the region, they want their concerns of the day to be discussed.

Gone are the days when ASEAN could set the agenda as it wished. Now the tide has turned. Consultation with EAS members is pivotal as a means to increase engagement with the major powers, especially the US. In addition, the EAS has already become the main forum where a new regional security architecture is being discussed and constructed.

From the US perspective, security issues including the elimination of chemical weapons, nuclear non-proliferation and the reactivation of North Korean nuclear programme should be on the EAS agenda. Washington hopes that ASEAN and other EAS members would share a similar concern on these topics. ASEAN members have expressed support for the US-Russia agreement to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons. Thailand issued the strongest endorsement of efforts to eliminate the chemical weapons.

Taking the cue from Asean, China is taking a different track with a development agenda such as bridging the income gap and poverty alleviation. Food and energy security, disaster management and dealing with pandemics are also common Asean-China themes. Obviously, both sides want to limit discussions on the maritime conflict at the EAS as the COC process between ASEAN and China has made progress.

As in the previous EAS, other non-Asean members such as Australia, Japan, South Korea, India or New Zealand could raise any regional issue their leaders see fit. As the current ASEAN chair, Brunei fervently hopes that the tone and scope of EAS discussions this year would be friendlier but candid. The EAS leaders will have only two and half hours of discussions to make their points; there will no opening or ending remarks.

From :

The Nation

ASEAN in the Power Web

26 09 2013

By Julio Amador III

President Barack Obama’s upcoming participation in the East Asia, APEC, and the ASEAN-U.S. confabs in Southeast Asia during his October trip to the region will highlight important challenges that the region faces, particularly the role that small states play in great power relations. While analysts and scholars are still debating the relationship between the United States and rising China, the countries of Southeast Asia, independently and as ASEAN, already understand that the ultimate nature of relations between the two great powers will directly affect them. For that reason, they do not want to wait passively for the result, but are actively engaging the U.S., China and other external stakeholders to help shape the evolving regional order.

China seeks a new type of great power relationship with the U.S. that would give it almost-equal status to the latter in the global arena. Beijing is seeking assurances from Washington that U.S. policy will take Chinese interests into account. In Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia, this would mean that China will have unspoken primacy in the same way that the U.S. enjoys an unchallenged role in the Western hemisphere.

Thus, China’s actions such as disputing Japan’s administrative control over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands by regularly dispatching maritime surveillance vessels to the surrounding area, taking over the Philippines’ Scarborough Shoal and attempting to take over Second Thomas Shoal, and maintaining a long-running dispute with Vietnam over the Paracels are alarming indications that it is willing to do what it takes to prevent violations of what it considers its sovereign territory.

Southeast Asia has generally enjoyed peaceful and productive relations with China. In fact, ASEAN and China have maintained a “strategic partnership” since 2003, which identifies numerous areas for cooperation. Earlier, in 2002, ASEAN and China concluded a Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. As a geographic reality, ASEAN member states have had no choice but to find ways of working with China. The regional body has for that reason always sought to encourage China to play an active role in regional institutions in an attempt to “socialize” it to accepted norms.

Increasingly, though, China expects the respect due a great power, one that has now displaced Japan as the world’s second-largest economy. Yet while China may believe that it is destined to dominate Southeast Asia, most countries in the region would naturally prefer to retain their autonomy. That doesn’t mean they will oppose China directly; indeed, they are prepared to make certain concessions in some areas that do not affect their national interests. Many East Asian countries respect China’s economic wealth and dynamism. Respect, however, does not mean obeisance. Southeast Asian states do not wish to rely entirely on Beijing’s goodwill so they try to balance their engagement with China by engaging external powers through ASEAN and by bilateral means wherever possible.

In contrast, Southeast Asia is much more accepting of U.S. primacy in the region. There are three important reasons for this: U.S. respect for freedom of navigation, its role in preventing other powers from dominating the smaller countries in the region, and its lack of territorial ambitions in that area. The general transparency of U.S. policymaking is also helpful to Southeast Asian states in that they have an idea of how the U.S. will react to certain policy decisions that they might make. The U.S. rebalancing has been welcomed by many ASEAN countries as both an affirmation of the region’s importance, and also as representing a formal commitment to deeper engagement in the broader Asia-Pacific region.

Still, ASEAN as a whole does not want to be in a position that would force it to choose between Beijing and Washington. First, it has always sought to position itself as a neutral and credible platform for dialogue among great powers through entities such as the ASEAN Regional Forum, the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting Plus and various ASEAN Plus mechanisms. Second, there is always the fear that the U.S. commitment to the region will disappear once a new crisis erupts, especially in the Middle East. Even in the face of greater Chinese assertiveness in its territorial disputes in the South China Sea, ASEAN has refused to categorically take the side of its own members that have borne the brunt of Beijing’s displeasure. It is easy to imagine the chagrin this would cause the leaders of these member states, but ASEAN’s caution is also understandable.

Nevertheless, ASEAN has also been prodding Beijing to negotiate a Code of Conduct. While Chinese leaders have reiterated that they are in no rush to do that, there are efforts within ASEAN to get Beijing to commit to the process. Under Brunei’s chairmanship, ASEAN members were able to agree that they need to work together to make the code a reality. Singapore has also consistently called for a code of conduct and has raised the issue with multiple visiting Chinese leaders. Indonesia is keen to preserve ASEAN unity on the issue and has sought to create a middle ground that addresses the concerns of member states in any dispute with China, while avoiding outright schisms within the group. Even though Thailand is seen by some as aligning with China, Bangkok has nevertheless committed to working with other ASEAN member states on the code, even if it is not giving the issue too much emphasis.  

Member states are keen to have ASEAN remain as the center of the regional architecture. For that to happen, the body must maintain a delicate posture between the U.S. and China while at the same time engage with other powers such as Japan, Russia and India, to ensure that it has a say in the direction the region will take.

ASEAN’s task is made all the more difficult because foreign policy coordination is not a major strength of the association. Given that the ten member states have different strategic outlooks and threat perceptions, the job of coordinating a regional position falls to the chair, which rotates among the member states. The ability to resist external pressure is often dependent on the relative power of the chair. In Cambodia’s turn in 2012, it was widely perceived that Beijing had a tremendous influence on ASEAN’s deliberations through its Cambodian partners. Brunei’s chairmanship, however, has been different this year because its economic and political standing gave it more freedom to resist external pressure. It was thus able to generate a consensus on sensitive issues like the South China Sea.

For ASEAN to remain a credible facilitator of great power relations in the Asia Pacific, it must respond to two equally daunting challenges. First, it must create a true regional community that has a narrow development gap and a bustling economy. Only an ASEAN that can stand on and for its own will have the capacity to resist external pressure from the great powers. To achieve this, member-states must succeed in their goal of a united ASEAN community in 2015. This would further move them towards a community of states that take each other’s concerns as their own and that prioritize the rights of the peoples of ASEAN.

The second challenge is to move away from paper declarations, and avoid focusing excessively on process. ASEAN needs to demonstrate more progress in achieving its various goals, like the ability to absorb development assistance, implement agreements and introduce or sustain reforms for foreign direct investment. With more than four decades of evolution behind it, ASEAN cannot continue to hide behind noble, aspirational declarations while consistently failing to produce the goods. As citizens demand more accountability from their governments, increasingly aided by social media, ASEAN member states will need to reckon more and more with their peoples, whose interests may transcend state boundaries.

Centrality in the Asia Pacific’s existing regional architecture is something that ASEAN has earned, but can it keep it? If ASEAN member states realize that the period of papering over substantive issues such as territorial and maritime disputes is over and that these issues can no longer be separate from the overall exercise of community-building, then the body could indeed remain at the center of Asia-Pacific regionalism. If not, well, then the existence of the Trans-Pacific Partnership demonstrates that other regional arrangements can be set up sans ASEAN.

ASEAN’s central role in managing power relations in the Asia-Pacific is not a given, but must continue to be earned. Fail to do so and the great powers themselves will determine the future of the region. That would be a sad outcome for a regional body that has hitherto managed to keep a central position in the regional power web.

Julio Amador III is an Asia Studies Visiting Fellow at the East-West Center in Washington and Fulbright Graduate Student at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. 

From :

The Diplomat

Greenpeace Report Calls for Renewed Vigor in ASEAN’s Renewable Energy Drive

24 09 2013

By Ethan Harfenist

Greenpeace Southeast Asia laid out an argument on Tuesday for a concerted push for renewable energy in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), focusing on both the economic and environmental benefits of a greener power policy.

“The deteriorating climate should be Asean’s top concern, given that the region is experiencing frequent and more intense extreme weather events due to climate change caused by carbon emissions,” said Amalie H. Obusan, regional climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

Launched at the 31st Asean Ministers of Energy meeting in Bali, “Energy [R]evolution: A Sustainable Asean Energy Outlook” emphasizes the socio-economic advantages of pursuing renewables in a roadmap detailing how the regional group could safeguard its energy security.

“The Asean region, with its rapid pace of economic and population growth should play an important role in this global solution as the E[R] report clearly shows that a low carbon development path is possible,” Obusan said.

The report said sustainable energy sources — such as wind, photovoltaics and geothermal energy — could comprise 70 percent of the region’s total electricity generation by 2050. This is due in part to a “democratization of energy production,” according to Greenpeace — access to solar panels could bring electricity to remote or deprived Southeast Asian communities currently unconnected to electricity grids.

Costs and benefits

The exploitation of green-energy sources across Asean could, the report said, result in $2.8 trillion worth of investment, $2.7 trillion in fuel-cost savings and 1.1 million jobs by 2030.

“There is already a strong global movement for reducing the dependency on fossil fuels by increasing the share of renewable energies,” said lead author Sven Teske, renewable energies director at Greenpeace International.

“The Asean countries have more than enough natural resources to become a leading player for clean, renewable energies. Renewable energies are more competitive than coal, utilize indigenous local resources and create more employment. Using more renewables is now an advantage for the economy, not a burden and reduces their dependence on dirty, imported fossil fuels like oil and coal.”

Indonesia, a net importer of gasoline and one of the biggest markets for natural gas in the world, has in the past acknowledged the need to gradually switch over to renewable energy sources, but the obstacles — bureaucracy, corruption, funding and land law among them — remain as plentiful as the sources themselves.

On Sept. 20, state-owned electricity company Perusahaan Listrik Negara forecast that Indonesia would need at least $77.3 billion to sufficiently develop renewable energy as a source of electricity by 2021.

Mochamad Sofjan, head of the renewable- and new-energy division at the Jakarta-based company, said that amount would be enough to add another 13,000 megawatts to the country’s power grid over the next eight years.

“During that period, we will build power plants with hydro, geothermal, biomass and solar as energy sources,” Mochamad said.

PLN, which provides much of the power to the country’s population of nearly 250 million, believes renewable energy will contribute at least 20 percent of the country’s electricity needs by 2021.

“Currently, 86.3 percent of our power plants are powered by conventional energy, while renewable accounts for only 13.7 percent,” he added.

Facts on the ground

In April, Israeli business website Globes reported that Ormat Technologies, a subsidiary of Israel-based renewable energy company Ormat Industries, had signed a joint-operating contract to construct a 330-megawatt geothermal power plant in Tapanuli, North Sumatra. The project would be Indonesia’s largest to date, after the Wayang Windu plant in West Java.

Refurbishment of existing infrastructure — as opposed to new, big-ticket renewable-energy projects — is another avenue along which Indonesia has taken some steps.

Entec Indonesia, the Bandung-based subsidiary of its Swiss parent, Entec, worked with a local firm in West Sumatra to develop the Salido Kecil mini hydroelectric plant in a fairly remote area 50 kilometers south of Padang.

The plant was built almost a century ago to power the local gold mining operation. Ardi, Entec Indonesia’s project manager, told the Jakarta Globe that the company replaced the three turbines and installed a new generator to improve the power station’s output.

“We were able to use the existing superstructure because it was in good condition,” he said.

The plant’s 660 kilowatts, at a cost of 4,500 tons of CO2 per year, has the potential to power almost 1,000 homes.

Green politics

Greenpeace warned, however, that Asean’s renewable-energy outlook was inextricably linked with the contours of its political landscape.

“Climate change is a wholesale problem requiring a wholesale solution, one that needs the absolute cooperation of every nation in the region,” said Obusan.

“For the sake of a sound environment, political stability and thriving economies, now is the time for Asean to commit to a truly secure and sustainable energy future — one built on genuinely clean technologies, economic development and the creation of hundreds of thousands of green jobs.”

From :

The Jakarta Globe

Bracing for the ASEAN economic integration

23 09 2013

By Niceto S. Poblador

MANY Filipino business leaders and corporate managers seem to be visibly on edge about the impending implementation of the economic integration of ASEAN. No matter how one looks at it, the launch of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015 will truly be an event of historical significance, one which will drastically alter the way we do business and manage our economic and corporate affairs.

What many businessmen fear most of all is that the crumbling of protective and regulatory walls that used to insulate them from their rivals elsewhere in the region will, in one fell swoop, expose them to unfettered competition which they fear they are ill-prepared to deal with.

The forthcoming integration of the economies in the region into the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) was the subject of the recently concluded 11th MAP International CEO Conference. While the six speakers at this forum touched on wide-ranging topics, there was one dominant message that was common to all the presentations: While the formal creation of the AEC poses great challenges and difficulties and create new uncertainties for business organizations and countries in the region, it also opens up great opportunities for accelerated and sustained growth and profitability for all. AEC seeks to achieve the goal of economic prosperity for the region by creating a single market and production base, by enhancing the region’s competitive stance vis-a-vis the rest of the world, and by promoting equitable economic growth within the region.

On balance, we believe that the potential benefits from AEC far outweigh the perceived problems and difficulties associated with it. In responding to the situation, business organizations should therefore focus their attention and devote their energies on the advantages that integration offers, rather than sulk over the problems and uncertainties that lie ahead.

In doing business with our counterparts in the other countries in the region and beyond, our main concern should be how to develop creative and innovative products and services to cater to the increasingly demanding needs of today’s consumers. Textbooks on strategic management tell us that to establish our competitive edge, we must develop the resources that enable us to produce those glitzy products, and the competencies to advantageously position ourselves in the market to gain customer loyalty.

In today’s complex and fast-paced knowledge-driven world, value creation is the major aspect of strategy, and gaining market share is only of secondary importance. (Come up with a good product, and the customer will come to you — it’s as simple as that!) Moreover, value creation through product innovation and development no longer takes place within the narrow confines of a business enterprise but through extensive collaboration with other organizations, including those with whom we are potentially in competition. This goes to show that in today’s world of business, collaboration is the name of the game! (The term popularly used to describe this strategy is “coopetition,” short for “cooperative competition.”)

In today’s economy, knowledge has become the most important economic resource, one moreover which is most easily transferable across corporate and national boundaries. It is the great equalizer of business opportunities, one that evens out the playing field. It is also resource that figures most prominently in collaborative strategies.

It is our belief that thriving in the emerging regional economic community requires business strategies intended to develop the firm’s human capital, which includes not only knowledge and human skills, but also an organizational culture that nourishes mutual trust and collaboration — intangible assets that are the main drivers of business success in the global economy.

Niceto S. Poblador is a former Professor of Management in UP Mindanao.

From :

Business World Online

Opportunity goes begging in ASEAN regional bloc

23 09 2013

By James Hogan

While the Australian economy remains firmly hitched to China, Australia needs to realise there are significant investment and trade opportunities emerging with our neighbours in Southeast Asia as well.

This week, the third round of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership negotiations takes place in Brisbane, involving the

10 ASEAN countries as well as Australia, China, New Zealand, India, Japan and Korea.

With nine of our top 12 trading partners participating, it needs to be closely watched by Australian businesses.

The ASEAN bloc boasts more than 10 per cent of the world’s population, with a combined GDP of $US2.1 trillion ($2.2 trillion) and a rising middle class.

And Australia, with its strong and mature services sector and close proximity, is better positioned than most to meet the insatiable needs of ASEAN’s rising consumer force.

Despite this, Australia’s emphasis on China has meant we have been somewhat asleep at the wheel when it comes to capturing the ASEAN opportunity.

Since 2000, HSBC estimates Australia’s total exports to ASEAN have grown only 5.2 per cent a year — with resources the main contributor — paling in comparison with our export growth to China of 23 per cent over the same period.

With $US3 trillion investment needed for infrastructure development in Asia (excluding China and India) and a further 600 million people entering the middle class by 2030, the bulk of Australia’s exports to ASEAN will be largely resources and energy related.

However, ASEAN’s rising middle class is hungry for high-quality goods and services, giving Australia an opportunity beyond commodities. This can be seen in countries like Vietnam where 65 per cent of its 90 million population is under 35 and with its urbanisation rate set to double in the next 20 years.

To date, education has been Australia’s largest export to Vietnam and is expected to grow.

We are also seeing growth in construction among our customers in Vietnam.

Sydney-based property developer and trader, Lobana, bought into ASEAN 30 years ago, originally as agri-traders and subsequently expanding into commercial property development.

With China shifting away from being the world’s factory as a result of increased wages, ASEAN has been filling the void and spurring foreign businesses’ interest in the region as an investment destination.

Indeed, foreign direct investment in ASEAN has increased in lockstep with China’s wage inflation of about 20 per cent since 2005. ASEAN’s low-cost manufacturing sector and highly productive labour force will further entice Western markets to invest directly into the region’s growth.

However, despite its proximity to the regional economic beast, Australia has not yet embraced this opportunity. Of Australia’s total FDI abroad, ASEAN accounts for 6.5 per cent, compared with the US (28 per cent) and Britain (14 per cent).

While ASEAN’s fundamentals are already impressive, we expect the trade and investment growth to be amplified when the ASEAN Economic Community — which will seek to further eliminate tariffs and other trade barriers within ASEAN — comes into existence at the end of 2015. The potential could be comparable to the development of the European Union, effectively creating what could be one of the world’s biggest markets.

While China will continue to dominate Australia’s trade story, there is a vast ASEAN opportunity at our doorstop. Given its future demographic trajectory, developing stronger trade and investment ties with ASEAN should be a key priority for our foreign strategy.

And forums like the RCEP should be seen as a vital vehicle to fully capture the potential of one of the world’s most dynamic regions.

James Hogan is the head of commercial banking at HSBC Bank Australia

From :

The Australian

The Courtship of ASEAN

23 09 2013

By Dylan Loh

The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) has enjoyed considerable diplomatic attention in recent months. This is due in a large part to a courtship involving three major powers: Japan, China and the United States.

Japanese Prime Minsiter Shinzo Abe has visited ASEAN three times since returning to power late last year, his latest trip a whirlwind tour that took in Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines. In all, he has to date visited seven counties in ASEAN.

China, too, has been ramping up its engagement and has also adopted a more conciliatory tone in recent high-level meetings with its ASEAN counterparts. Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, has visited ASEAN at least three times. Significantly, on June 2013, China agreed to hold talks with ASEAN on a proposed Code of Conduct governing naval action in the SCS. These advances are a contrast to its earlier stance, where it steadfastly refused to entertain ASEAN on maritime territorial issues, such as when it guided Cambodia to thwart a collective ASEAN effort to release a joint communiqué on the South China Sea disputes at the 45th ASEAN ministerial meeting.

Meanwhile, U.S Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel have both made trips to ASEAN countries, stressing the importance, relevance and ongoing strength of the American pivot. The Philippines and the U.S. have also begun discussions to extend access to more military bases for American troops in an important material consequence and manifestation of the American pivot.

While the cultivation of ASEAN by major powers is not new, the intensity of the recent courtship is unprecedented. Which begs the question: why ASEAN and why now? Two compelling reasons stand out, one practical and the other more strategic. First the utilitarian, as ASEAN becomes ever more coherent (not an entirely painless process) through initiatives such as a common market, it is becoming ever easier for major powers to cultivate ties with all of ASEAN simply by augmenting and amplifying relations with a few members. Case in point: Abe’s visit to three nations (out of 10 ASEAN countries) has been reported by numerous media outlets as a “tour of ASEAN” and as an act that would strengthen ties with the entire bloc. This is true for exchanges by the U.S and China as well.

But just because it is becoming easier to engage ASEAN is not sufficient reason to explain the recent attention. There is also an underlying strategic imperative, and that has to do with geography.

ASEAN has become the site for proxy power competition. For instance, galvanized by its East China Sea disputes with China, Japan has been busy generating support and political goodwill in Southeast Asia. For example, on a stopover in the Philippines (which has its own maritime issues with China), Tokyo sought to reenergize ties by way of maritime support, increasing economic exchange, an extension of a credit loan and, most notably, the provision of 10 petrol vessels to the Philippines Coast Guard in what is, surely, a pointed message for Beijing.

The U.S., on the other hand, sees its traditional dominance in the Pacific under growing pressure. With each new assertion of America’s decline and China’s rise comes a need to reiterate and reinforce its position in this part of the world. It is no surprise, then, that we are seeing redoubled efforts by Washington to engage and re-engage, assure and reassure.

ASEAN naturally stands to benefit from all this romancing, but it needs to maintain its composure and not be seen as leaning towards any one power. It also must not be bullied into submission. In an almost Machiavellian way, ASEAN continues should cultivate an image of neutrality. That will ensure the region remains diplomatically and economically relevant. 

Dylan Loh holds a Master of Science in International Relations from the Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) in Singapore.

From :

The Diplomat

Japan, U.S., ASEAN must team up to counter China’s maritime advance

22 09 2013

It is becoming apparent that China intends to strengthen its hegemony in the South China Sea while stalling for time in drawing up a code of conduct to avoid hostilities.

China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations held the first official talks among senior officials to move toward deciding on a code of conduct to regulate the activities of countries concerned in the South China Sea.

Yet China remained halfhearted over the issue throughout the talks, with the meeting only deciding on the establishment of a meeting of experts.

In the South China Sea, China is in conflict with such ASEAN countries as the Philippines and Vietnam regarding sovereignty over the Spratly Islands and other islands and reefs.

China asserts a claim of exclusive sovereignty over not only the Spratly Islands but nearly all of the South China Sea. Yet it has not brought the international community around to its point of view.

For over a decade, the ASEAN countries have been trying to secure agreement from China on the establishment of rules of conduct to prevent overt hostilities in the South China Sea. Yet, with its overwhelming military and economic power, China refused to hold such a meeting until recently.

It is regrettable that even when China finally did come to the negotiating table, it proposed discussing other issues instead and would not go into a detailed discussion on the code of conduct.

Scarborough stare-down

In the South China Sea, with no code of conduct for concerned countries, the crisis is only deepening. The current focal point lies in the conflict between the Philippines and China.

Around the disputed Scarborough Shoal, over which both countries claim sovereignty, naval vessels from the two sides faced each other for two months. The government of the Philippines said that after it moved its vessels away, China placed concrete blocks on the shoal.

Earlier this year, the Philippines filed a request for arbitration under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, asserting that China’s claim of sovereignty over the shoal is unlawful. This month, China held an exhibition inviting heads of ASEAN member countries. But the president of the Philippines was not invited.

The snub must be interpreted as an attempt by China to rebuke the Philippines over the country’s having taken legal action against China.

It is understandable that the Philippines, pressured physically by China, has been intensifying relations with the United States and Japan.

While having expanded a joint military exercise with the United States, the Philippines is moving ahead in talks with the United States that are likely to lead, in effect, to the stationing of U.S. forces in the Philippines again. There is a possibility that the Subic naval base, once a strategic foothold for the United States, will again be used for the deployment of U.S. forces.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, since he took office last December, has intensively visited ASEAN countries and presented his plan of providing 10 patrol vessels to the Philippines.

For both Japan and the United States, which face the expanding presence of China in the East China Sea and the western Pacific, the significance of cooperating with ASEAN member countries by taking concerted actions with them is not limited to the South China Sea. It will help their efforts to check China from expanding its maritime activities elsewhere as well.

From :

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Why the 2015 deadline for the ASEAN economic integration?

21 09 2013

BY John Goyer

As ASEAN continues on its long path toward regional economic integration, US companies are responding by developing strategies to operate in and adapt to the region as a single market and production base. In the “ASEAN Business Outlook Survey” released August 2013 and prepared by the US Chamber of Commerce and AmCham Singapore, slightly over half of US companies surveyed said that their companies are preparing strategies based on ASEAN’s plans to reduce and eliminate barriers to trade in goods, services, and investment among its member countries.

The survey, highlights of which were presented at the August 19-21 ASEAN Business and Investment Summit in Brunei Darussalam, polled 475 senior executives representing US companies in all ten ASEAN countries, and found great optimism toward the region. 79% of the respondents reported that their company’s level of trade and investment in ASEAN has increased over the past two years, and an overwhelming 91% of respondents expect it to increase over the next five years.

This optimism is based, significantly, on economic integration; most respondents—77%—say that ASEAN integration is important in helping their companies do business in the region. One survey respondent explained that the “seamless movement of goods and services will enable productive operations across the ASEAN region.”

ASEAN’s work on intra-regional tariff reduction, liberalization of trade in services, liberalization of investment, and streamlining of customs administration and procedures are all factoring into US companies’ investment decisions. The majority of survey respondents were in the services sector and 68% attached importance to the ASEAN Framework Agreement on Services. 56% of respondents reported that the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement is important to their companies’ investment plans; 59% said the same of the ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement, while the figure for the trade facilitation and customs development work plan was 63%.

The positive outlook for ASEAN should be encouraging for policymakers in the region. Not only are individual ASEAN countries attractive investment destinations, but the potential of an integrated region with a population of 600 million, a $2 trillion GDP, and good growth prospects is raising ASEAN’s profile in the eyes of US investors.

…and integrating externally…

While working to integrate its own internal market, ASEAN has recently entered into free trade agreements with a number of its major regional trading partners: China, Japan, India, Korea, and a joint agreement with Australia & New Zealand. The survey sought to gauge usage of these FTAs by US companies with operations in ASEAN. As it turns out, a significant number of US companies are seeking to take full advantage of these agreements. Nearly half of the US manufacturing companies surveyed say that they utilize the provisions of these agreements to export goods from ASEAN to its major FTA partners: China (63%), Japan (48%), India and Korea (47%), and Australia & New Zealand (45%). This, in turn, is boosting ASEAN’s total exports, and helping facilitate its integration with the rest of Asia.

Use of the services provisions for these agreements is much lower however, perhaps reflecting the limited coverage of services in those agreements. Of ASEAN’s three FTAs for which services provisions are in effect (services provisions for India and Japan have yet to be implemented), 33% of respondents reported exporting services from ASEAN to China. For Korea, and Australia & New Zealand, the figures were 27% and 21%, respectively. There is likely to be room for significant growth in this area, given that services account for the greatest share of economic output in most ASEAN countries, and that the barriers to trade in services tend to be high relative to trade in goods.

While significant numbers of US companies are using these agreements, many still are not, which raises a question of how much untapped export potential exists. Respondents cited a variety of reasons for not using these FTAs, but one common theme was simply a lack of familiarity with the agreements.

…but facing skepticism

The ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in a sense represents the culmination of ASEAN’s aspirations toward regional integration. The AEC articulates the vision of an economically-integrated region by the end of 2015 between all ten member states: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. The vision is for a single market and production base in a highly competitive economic region with equitable economic development and fully integrated into the global economy.

As the survey demonstrates, US companies clearly think that the AEC is important; however, just over half of respondents surveyed—52%—do not think that this goal will in be place by the 2015 deadline. Only 23% of respondents believe that ASEAN will realize the goals of the AEC by 2015, with the remainder of respondents neutral on this question. Of the respondents who answered that it was “unlikely” for the AEC’s goals to be met by 2015, 59%—or almost two-thirds of respondents—believe it will not happen until 2020 or later.

Whether warranted or not, this skepticism suggests that additional education and outreach needs to be done, and ASEAN should be doing more to broadcast the AEC benchmarks that it has already met. As one survey respondent aptly stated, “The AEC 2015, we feel, will have enormous and positive impact in the years following 2015, but is not well understood within our region, let alone outside of it.”

Looking ahead

ASEAN is an attractive market in itself, but it has the opportunity to position itself at the very center of a rapidly evolving regional trade architecture. This survey shows that while US companies are thinking regionally, they will need to focus increasingly on strategies to take advantage of ASEAN’s potential as integration accelerates. Meanwhile, ASEAN will need to enhance its efforts to educate investors about the AEC and the advantages of an economically integrated region. If both sides do their part, the benefits of an integrated ASEAN will be realized sooner rather than later and to the benefit of all.

John Goyer is Senior Director for Southeast Asia at the US Chamber of Commerce

From :


ASEAN’s democratic deficit

13 09 2013

By Verdinand Robertua

In a recent debate forum held in Jakarta, there was a perception that Indonesian political parties contesting the 2014 elections, pay no heed to the country’s readiness to face ASEAN Community 2015 as an important campaign issue.

In fact, however, the ASEAN Community 2015 is a topic of the public’s interest for both the legislative and presidential election next year for two reasons: (i) the impact of implementation of ASEAN single market in 2015 and (ii) the accountability and accessibility of ASEAN community.

For ordinary people, the dynamics of ASEAN lacks relevance. ASEAN Community only exists in the ASEAN leaders’ imagination.

In Indonesia, where half of the 60,000 villages are without electricity, 116 million people lack access to proper sanitation and only 47.71 percent of the population has access to drinking water sources, most people will care more about their day-to-day survival than care to give room for thought on something as grand as ASEAN Community.

The reality is that ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), one of the three pillars of ASEAN Community 2015, is a potential economic monster. AEC comprises of five core elements: (i) free flow of goods; (ii) free flow of services; (iii) free flow of investment; (iv) free flow of capital and (v) free flow of skilled labor.

AEC is a very ambitious project and is becoming a two-edge sword: it can either bring prosperity for Indonesians or big failure. The removal of import duties will reduce state incomes and threaten local products. More factories are being moved to other ASEAN countries due to its cheap labor and making more Indonesians unemployed. Job competition is becoming fierce as many foreign workers are free to access the Indonesian labor market. The arrival of ASEAN giant industries will be considered a threat for our small and medium companies.

The interesting point of the impact of AEC is that ASEAN member states will prefer collective agreements with external actors. We knew about ASEAN-China Free Trade Area and ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area. Later ASEAN countries will implement ASEAN-Korea Free Trade Area and negotiate ASEAN-EU Comprehensive Economic Partnership. Despite these agreements that have provoked intense debate on the advantage and the disadvantage; in the future there will be more agreement between ASEAN member states and their counterparts using ASEAN framework.

ASEAN Economic Community 2015 promises to make ASEAN a single market and production base. For external actors like China and Korea, this has a huge potential economic benefit to reap and for ASEAN member states, collective agreement in ASEAN framework will give them time and financial savings, bigger bargaining power and a bigger chance for win-win solutions. It is also in line with AEC blueprint that ASEAN shall work towards maintaining “ASEAN centrality” in its external economic relations.

If ASEAN is getting bigger and bigger, who controls ASEAN? Who will be held responsible if ASEAN’s decisions create economic disaster to the whole region? The problem of accountability is even worse if we know that most of the Indonesian people are not aware of the presence of ASEAN.

Research conducted by Abdullah and Benny (2011) show that only 42 percent of Indonesian respondents claim to have heard of, or read about the ASEAN Community. Even in Jakarta, 71 percent of the respondents say they have not heard or read about the regional agenda. The number of respondents who claim to have read or heard about the Bali Concord II is even lower at only 16 percent. Meanwhile, the majority of respondents say they have not yet heard about the ASEAN Charter.

This is a democratic deficit; a situation refers to a perceived lack of accessibility to the ordinary citizens, representation of the ordinary citizens and accountability of certain institution. In the ASEAN case, people know nothing about ASEAN Community 2015 but sooner or later they will be affected by it. However, this problem is not unique to ASEAN. The notion of democratic deficit is firstly popularized by the European social scientists in regard to the idea of the European Union (EU). Having multi-layered, multi-centered, division-of-power governance, as the EU has right now, is a big puzzle for the ordinary Europeans on the accountability of the EU’s policies.

In Sweden, national politicians sometimes see how decisions come in through the back door. European politicians don’t talk about what’s being decided and the consequences. In France, leaders at the national level denied the significance of the EU institutions in national political economy and they named it an “offensive denial”.

The problem of ASEAN’s democratic deficit needs to be addressed through three quick solutions to marketing ASEAN to its citizens. First, there should be an ASEAN corner in many public places where computers, leaflets, posters, booklets and reports are available. From a screen, citizens can access real-time information on all current ASEAN legislations and know and understand them by having attractive and simple leaflets, posters or booklets.

Second, ASEAN can invite college students, local non-governmental organizations (NGOs), or politicians to visit ASEAN institutions. Such a trip will allow them to feel the presence of ASEAN.

Lastly, candidates contesting the legislative and presidential election in 2014 should gain the momentum of the political events to market ASEAN Community 2015. There should be many forums, seminars and campaign toolkits about the plan of ASEAN Community 2015. These tools will help their constituents understand the impact and opportunities of ASEAN Community.

The writer is a lecturer in international relations at the Christian University of Indonesia (UKI) and researcher at the UKI’s Institute of ASEAN Studies (IAS) and Marthinus Academy.

From :

The Jakarta Post

Promotion and Protection: ASEAN’s Human Rights Role

11 09 2013

By Ngurah Swajaya

Cooperation to promote and protect human rights within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations is constantly evolving. It all started with the adoption of the Joint Communique of the 26th Asean Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in 1993 in which Asean pledged, for the first time, its commitment to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms.

This commitment would be reiterated in subsequent documents like the Hanoi Plan of Action of 1997 and the Vientiane Action Program of 2004. Both documents charted measures to achieve Asean Vision 2020, which is described as “a concert of Southeast Asian nations, outward looking, living in peace, stability and prosperity, bonded together in partnership in dynamic development and in a community of caring societies.”

When the Asean Summit of 2003 agreed on the establishment of an Asean Community standing on the pillars of political-security cooperation, economic cooperation and socio-cultural cooperation, that commitment further strengthened and led to the formulation of an Asean Charter, which entered into force at the end of 2008. This gave Asean new impetus to establish mechanisms that would more vigorously promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms. The Asean Political-Security Community Blueprint in particular provides the roadmap for the strengthening of Asean’s commitment to promote and protect human rights.

In implementation of the Asean Charter, the Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) was subsequently established as Asean’s overarching mechanism to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms in close collaboration with other mechanisms, including the Asean Commission on Women and Children (ACWC).

At present the focus of the AICHR is on human rights promotion and its major achievement is the formulation of the Asean Human Rights Declaration, which was adopted by the Asean Leaders during their summit in Phnom Penh last year.

The entry into force of the Asean Charter, the establishment of the AICHR and the adoption of the AHRD are important milestones in human rights cooperation both among Asean members and between them and their Dialogue Partners. These represent the strengthening of collective efforts to promote and protect human rights in Asean. These same efforts can also reinforce Asean’s efforts to promote the establishment of a people-centered and people-oriented Asean Community. Meanwhile, more Asean member states are establishing national human rights commissions.

Human rights cooperation is also one of the important activities under the Bali Concord III Plan of Action toward the development of the Asean Community in a Global Community of Nations. Thus Asean is fostering cooperation in the promotion and protection of human rights with its external partners, including international organizations. Moreover Asean always includes cooperation in the promotion and protection of human rights as one of the components of all partnership plans of action with all of its dialogue partners.

One of the greatest challenges to Asean today is how to ensure the effective implementation of the declaration and the mainstreaming of the values embodied in the declaration into the activities undertaken by all Asean Organs under the Three Pillars of the Asean Community.

To mobilize civil society organizations in support of the protection of human rights in the Asean region, it is necessary to raise public awareness of the issue. Cooperation should also be promoted between Asean mechanisms and the relevant national commissions in the respective member states as a way of mainstreaming human rights into Asean activities. A good example of this is the panel discussion recently organized for the first time jointly by the AICHR and the Committee of Permanent Representatives to Asean (CPR) in observance of the 46th anniversary of Asean.

The member states should intensify their efforts to further develop the AICHR and to establish Asean’s legally binding instrument for the promotion and protection of the rights of migrant workers. In addition to completing the development of new human rights related instruments, ensuring the implementation of the Asean Human Rights Declaration by all Asean Member States is essential.

Last but not least, efforts to promote and protect human rights in Asean should be coupled with the development of stronger Asean mechanisms. A review of the terms of reference of the establishment of the AICHR, scheduled to be held next year, could be utilized to strengthen Asean’s mechanisms, particularly in the field of human rights protection.

The dialogue between the government of Indonesia and the AICHR held in June 2013 is an important step toward strengthening the work of the AICHR, particularly on the protection aspect of human rights. Strengthening of the commission’s capacity is crucial.

Forty-six years ago, it would have been difficult to imagine that Asean could achieve significant progress, not only in the maintenance of peace and stability and in the promotion of peoples’ prosperity but also in the development of the evolving regional architecture. It would have been even more difficult to imagine that it could achieve so much in terms of the promotion and protection of human rights.

These achievements provide Asean no reason for complacency. Challenges ahead are formidable and complex. In line with its efforts to build a people-centered and people-oriented Asean Community, Asean should sustain the momentum of its efforts to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms. This thought should be foremost in Asean’s mind as it navigates the 46th year of its remarkable life.

Ambassador Ngurah Swajaya is the permanent representative of Indonesia to ASEAN

From : The Jakarta Globe

ASEAN Development Cooperation

11 09 2013

By Amb. Jose V. Romero, Jr., Ph.d

Promoting Agriculture

Agriculture contributes a substantial portion of total goods and services in Asean countries. It is but proper therefore that the community cooperate to make this sector, specifically its food production component, an important part of its cooperative planning effort. Along these lines the community is working towards enhancingits competitivenessof itsfood, agricultural and forestry products in international markets, and the empowerment of its farmers through the promotion of agricultural cooperatives. Emerging and cross-cutting issues such as food security, mitigation of an adaptation to climate change for the agriculture and forestry sector and sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) are also addressed within its priorities.

Through the harmonisation of quality and standards, assurances of food safety and standardisation of trade certification, ASEAN agricultural products are expected to be ready to compete in the global market by offering safe, healthy and quality foods. Accompanying this priority is to ensuring food security
Production of tradable agriculture and forest products at the national level is an essential component for the realisation of the above priorities. This calls for an appropriate set of macro-economic policies; country-specific economic conditions; quality education for farmers; adoption of suitable technology and communication and marketing arrangements to enable farmers to access information, capital and inputs for efficient production at reduced cost.

The increase of economically and environmentally sustainable agricultural and forest production, in terms of both quantity and quality, also needs to be addressed.

Strengthening food security and emergency/shortage relief is a core measure in addressing food security in the region. It is aimed at strengthening national food security programmes and activities, and developing regional food security reserve initiatives and mechanisms.

Sustainable food production is an important aspect of securing food security, which could be achieved through improving agricultural infrastructure development, minimising post-harvest losses, reducing transaction costs, maximizing agricultural resources potential, promoting agricultural innovation including research and development on agricultural productivity and accelerating transfer and adoption of new technologies.

In addition, food security-related initiatives will be identified and promoted. These include providing an effective market to encourage sustainable growth in food production, encouraging greater public and private sector investment in food and agro-based industry development and strengthening integrated food security information systems (i.e. early warning, monitoring and surveillance mechanisms).

Ensuring a Level-Playing Field

ASEAN Member States have, in the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Blueprint, committed to endeavour to introduce nation-wide Competition Policy and Law (CPL) by 2015. This is to ensure a level playing field and incubate a culture of fair business competition for enhanced regional economic performance in the long run. Paralleling this effort the enactment of consumer protection laws ensures fair competition and the free flow of correct information in the marketplace.

Protecting Intellectual Property Rights

Intellectual Property (IP) and IP Rights (IPRs) creation, commercialisationand protection have been a significant source of comparative advantage of enterprises and economies and hence a major driver of their competitive strategies.

Transport Cooperation

ASEAN cooperation in the transport sector aims to realise an efficient and integrated transport system to support the realisation of the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) and for ASEAN to integrate with the global economy. Under the current ASEAN Transport Action Plan (ATAP) 2005-2010, transport cooperation in ASEAN is focused, amongst other areas, on enhancing multimodal transport linkages and interconnectivity, promoting the seamless movement of people and goods and promoting further liberalisation in the air and maritime transport services. To facilitate seamless movement of goods in the region, transport facilitation framework agreements to implement the current action plan have been concluded.

From :

The Negros Chronicle