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In This Issue: News and Views:
The second issue of “aSEAn focus” coincides with the Eid-ul-Fitr celebrations in ASEAN member countries. The ASC team takes this opportunity to express warm wishes to its online community of friends for peace and joy during the Eid-ul-Fitri festivities and the year ahead.
ASEAN Community: Engaging the Private Sector Youth and the ASEAN Community The ASEAN Ministerial and Related Meetings
Books To Read: Know your ASEAN—3rd Edition (ISEAS, 2011)
ASC Updates ASEAN News in Review Next Month in ASEAN ASC Upcoming Events
This issue explores different aspects of building the ASEAN Community. ASC Lead Researchers Sanchita Basu Das and Moe Thuzar look at where gaps can be filled in achieving the ASEAN Economic and Socio-Cultural Communities. ASC Head Rodolfo Severino shares thoughtful insights on the political obstacles that remain a challenge to regional integration, particularly economic integration. The importance of appreciating ASEAN in all its different aspects, in order to think, feel and believe in it, is highlighted in a book review of the 2nd edition of “Know Your ASEAN”. The next issue of “aSEAn focus” will continue discussing regional integration and its challenges.
News and Views ASEAN Community: Engaging the Private Sector Sanchita Basu Das The ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) gathered for the 43rd time during the second week of August to continue their work on building an ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by 2015, and to discuss ways to further engage Dialogue Partners and other stakeholders in the process. Leaders must understand that besides providing the policy framework, it is imperative to involve the decisions and actions of businessmen in building an AEC. However:
Currently the private sector is still not clear on the usefulness of an AEC.
Little awareness of ASEAN agreements, which force them to think nationally and defensively about competition from the region or elsewhere.
Benefits of an AEC
Lower transaction costs
Attractiveness to investments
ASEAN leaders must understand
Expanded consumer choices.
that it is imperative to involve the
ASEAN Free Trade AREA (AFTA)
businessmen in building the ASEAN
Initiated in 1992 but the utilisation rate of the AFTA tar- Economic Community. iff preference is around 23 percent across ASEAN.
Difficulties faced by the private sector for expansion into ASEAN countries
Limited local knowledge
Lack of capital
Slowness in translating ASEAN legal documents for ratification by governments.
Language limitations and difficulty in understanding ASEAN materials
Recommendations for AEM solutions to raise awareness
Stress public-private sector partnerships and regular consultations with business community.
Ensure availability of written material on ASEAN and AEC to businesses in English and local languages
Vital for the ASEAN bodies - governments, the Secretariat and business associations – to address the information gap quickly.
Give trade facilitation a priority. It is time that focus should be trained on smoother customs and logistics integration.
Review the progress and effectiveness of ASEAN’s central non-tariff barriers database system and its implementation.
Unlock potential of small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs).
The writer is ASC Lead Researcher for Economic Affairs. These are her personal views, based on an article written for the Business Times.
News and Views Youth and the ASEAN Community Moe Thuzar Youth and leadership are two essential ingredients for the future. They become even more important as ASEAN moves closer to 2015, the target for the accomplishment of a single integrated ASEAN Community. What do the youth of ASEAN expect of their Community? Do they have a sense of regional identity in the way the Association has cultivated the “ASEAN Way” at policy-making levels in its member states?
If youth do not see that they have a stake in building the ASEAN Community, then ASEAN will neither endear nor endure.
In the 44 years since its founding, ASEAN has established a norm of thinking about and doing things together. All forms of ASEAN cooperation, especially the ones initiated without government prodding, are what will ultimately glue the ASEAN Community together. The more often the people of Southeast Asia get together – to exchange views, help each other or work together – the stronger the community will become, despite the diversity of culture, ethnicity and politics.
Yet, challenges remain. Young people in the region have correctly identified some of the most important: bridging the development gaps that still exist between and within the ASEAN members, and entrenching a sense of regional identity. A survey conducted in late 2007 among students at the 10 leading universities in ASEAN countries highlighted some interesting insights on how ASEAN is perceived by its young. University students across the region had a relatively high knowledge of ASEAN. They considered themselves ASEAN citizens and had generally positive attitudes towards the Association. Interestingly, the survey suggested ambivalence was more widespread in the member countries which had been in the Association the longest, while enthusiasm ranked the highest in “newer” members like Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. The students participating in the survey agreed on many points, including the importance of economic cooperation, addressing poverty and development needs, shared orientations shaped by common aspirations, and a desire to know/learn more about the region. These, spurred by the impatience and idealism of youth, should give impetus to achievement of the ASEAN Community. Young people are not waiting for intergovernmental programmes to take the lead in reaching out to their neighbours in region. Regardless of what governments can or cannot do, nothing can stop the enthusiasm of youth from connecting with each other and finding solutions to common problems. Young people today have access to powerful technologies, unimaginable only a generation ago. With these resources, and the unlimited creativity of youth, young people today can be the driving force in bringing ASEAN together. Through their blogs, social networks, and online discussions, they can take on the cause of ASEAN. It is incumbent on ASEAN policy-makers to ensure that the youth continue to believe in the ASEAN Community and to remain engaged. If they do not see that they have a stake in working for peace and prosperity in the region, then ASEAN will neither endear nor endure.
The author is ASC Lead Researcher for Socio-Cultural Affairs. The article is an excerpt from her keynote address at the closing ceremony of the 3rd ASEAN Youth Convention on 10 August 2011 in Singapore. The views expressed are her own. The youth images are from the 2007 survey mentioned in the article.
News and Views The ASEAN Ministerial and Related Meetings Rodolfo C. Severino As they do every year, the foreign ministers of ASEAN gathered in July to review the state of the region and the world, not least, of ASEAN itself, particularly as it unfolded in the past year, and map out the Association’s future course. This time, the 44th ASEAN Ministerial and related meetings were held on the resort island of Bali, Indonesia being in ASEAN’s chair this year. The 44th AMM was held on 19 July, followed by meetings with counterparts from ASEAN’s ten “Dialogue Partners” - Australia, Canada, China, the European Union, India, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Russia and the United States. On 23 July, the ministerial meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), participated in by ASEAN’s member-states, its Dialogue Partners and seven other governments, took place.
ASEAN Foreign Ministers at the 44th AMM
As expected, the media and other observers eagerly watched for statements from the ASEAN and ARF foreign ministers on developments in the South China Sea, in particular to gauge the belligerence with which the US Secretary of State would assert her country’s interest in those developments and the vehemence with which the Chinese foreign minister would press China’s claims in the area. ASEAN foreign ministers themselves were intensely preoccupied with the subject, stressing in their joint communiqué that they “discussed in depth the recent developments in the South China Sea”, and referring twice to discussion “in ASEAN on a regional Code of Conduct in the South China Sea” and on “dialogue between ASEAN and China” on the matter.
discussions.—image source Voice of Vietnam
Progress of sorts was made, with the adoption of the “guidelines” for the implementation of the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. ASEAN insisted that the South China Sea issue was a matter for ASEAN and China as a whole, contrary to China’s preference for discussion with individual claimants. The guidelines were adopted only after the 44th AMM, and do not further define the concept of “self-restraint”. Nevertheless, their adoption is seen as a step forward. Another topic that continued to be the focus of attention—as it has for the past decade—was the situation in Myanmar. This year’s AMM and related meetings were the first to take place after general elections had been carried out in Myanmar (in November 2010) and a new political regime installed in March 2011. Both ASEAN and ARF heard briefings from the new Myanmar foreign minister , but no decision was reached by ASEAN on Myanmar’s proposal to assume the ASEAN chairmanship in 2014, a role that the country had foregone in 2006. Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa is scheduled to visit Myanmar to assess the country’s readiness for ASEAN chairmanship. None of the series of ministerial meetings produced a document that refers to the fact that Myanmar is scheduled to take over the country coordinatorship of the ASEAN-US dialogue in 2012. Another important decision on which the ASEAN ministers failed to arrive at a common recommendation was on Timor-Leste’s application for ASEAN membership. A compromise was also obvious in the way the AMM joint communiqué refers to the border clashes between Cambodian and Thai troops. Indonesia’s engagement in the process as current ASEAN Chair is referred to in recognising Thailand’s preference for bilateral talks. Thailand was represented at the AMM by the deputy permanent secretary of the Thai foreign ministry, owing to the transition between governments in Bangkok. The foreign ministers renewed their commitment to regional economic integration though remaining largely silent on the political obstacles for ASEAN to achieve this. The foreign ministers’ commitment “to integrate our commitments into national policies and programmes” is, of course, most welcome, although whether this will be actually done remains to be seen. Perhaps this should be made part of the ASEAN Economic Ministers’ scorecard. This is an excerpt from Mr Severino’s article of the same title, written for the ASEAN Studies Centre. The full article can be viewed at: http://asc.iseas.edu.sg/images/stories/pdf/ASEAN_Ministerial_Meetings_-_RS__25_July_2011.pdf.
Books to Read Know Your ASEAN—2nd Edition Mark Hong Every book review should inform the reader what the book aims to achieve, whether it has done so, what are its substantial points, its errors and omissions, how well it is written, and form a judgment about the book, such as, has the reader increased his/ her knowledge and enjoyment after reading this book? First, this book aims to impart basic knowledge about ASEAN, a regional organisation now already 44 years old and still relatively not well understood by the citizens of its member states, apart from the officials, diplomats and literati who deal with ASEAN matters. There is thus a vast information gap about ASEAN which this book tries to fill, in simple language, using a question and answer format. That this type of book and knowledge is indeed needed came clear to this reviewer when, after delivering a lecture to university students in Phnom Penh, their questions revealed a basic misunderstanding of what ASEAN can and cannot do in their queries about the Thai-Cambodian conflict over the Preah Vihear Temple. They asked “Why cannot ASEAN intervene and help resolve this conflict?” This edition of Know Your ASEAN covers a comprehensive swathe of information on ASEAN: the details of ASEAN’s membership and its history; its aims and achievements; its Non-interference Principle; its position about human rights; the Myanmar issue; ASEAN’s actions to promote peace and stability, such as the non-use of force; description of the Dialogue relationships; describes the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, the East Asia Summit, the ASEAN Regional Forum and the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone; the ASEAN position on the South China Sea; and stresses that ASEAN is not a military alliance. On economic aspects, it touches on job creation, poverty reduction, overcoming the development gap between the newer and older member-states; trade and economic stability, tourism promotion, protection of the regional environment, stopping infectious diseases such as SARS; crime and drug-trafficking; natural disasters, gender issues; the regional cultural heritage; and youth issues. On regional and international aspects, the book discusses ASEAN’s relations with the international community; dialogue partnerships; relations with the United Nations and its agencies; with the Asian Development Bank. On organisational aspects, the book discusses: the ASEAN Secretariat; the need for an ASEAN Charter; the meaning of the ASEAN flag and emblem; funding and personnel aspects of the ASEAN Secretariat; decision-making organs and processes with mention of the important consensus principle; the ASEAN Summit and the ASEAN Coordinating Council of Foreign Ministers; English as the working language of ASEAN and ways to learn more about ASEAN. It is quite clear from the above list that this book does cover lot of ground, and provides much useful and basic information. As the first edition was issued on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of ASEAN, the facts on ASEAN were limited to 40 questions that people interested in ASEAN usually ask. Now that the 50th anniversary of ASEAN is coming up in 2017, perhaps the number of questions could be increased to 50. The following 10 new questions could be usefully added: 1. How to prevent or ameliorate conflicts between member-states? 2. Should ASEAN move towards supra-national status? If ASEAN is not ready now, when would be a good year50th Anniversary? Are there interim measures which might be taken? 3. When a member-state refuses to comply with ASEAN rules, what can or should be done to ensure compliance? Should progressively tougher punishments be administered? 4. How will ASEAN progress towards the setting up of the Three ASEAN Communities? 5. Should ASEAN set up new ASEAN agencies and bodies, such as an ASEAN high court? What are the pros and cons, obstacles and benefits? Would an ASEAN Senate be useful? 6. What can and should be done to give ASEAN youths a sense of ownership of and involvement with ASEAN? 7. As the rise of China continues inexorably, how should ASEAN handle relations with China? 8. On the key issue of ASEAN connectivity, what can and should be done to enhance ASEAN people’s connectivity? 9. On issues which are becoming more prominent, such as climate change, scarcity of resources (energy, water, food) what can ASEAN do as a regional grouping? 10. How can ASEAN become more “future-ready”?
Books to Read Know Your ASEAN—2nd Edition What else might be done to improve the book? First, there should be a contents page, which would help readers to refer quickly to the book-contents and give a quick preview. Secondly, there should be added a diagram or chart showing the structures and bodies of ASEAN, and how they are inter-connected. Perhaps a map of Southeast Asia, showing the geographic locations of the member-states, might be useful for students. Third, there should be an introductory overview, which could list the major ASEAN achievements, such as how much ASEAN has contributed to maintaining regional peace and stability, perhaps its greatest achievement. Fourth, there could be added a useful annex of basic data on the ASEAN member-states, for easy reference. Fifth, one would have liked to see mention of how ASEAN successfully used peaceful diplomacy and political persuasion to handle and resolve the Cambodian conflict, its second greatest achievement. There are very few successful attempts by regional states to resolve regional conflicts on the basis of the rule of international law, such as what ASEAN achieved on the Cambodian conflict. This is a point worth highlighting for the attention of young and new generations of ASEAN peoples. One reason why ASEAN succeeded was because for the first 10 years of its existence, ASEAN spent time and effort to get to know each other, to promote friendship, cooperation and understanding between member-states. Thus when the conflict broke out in December 1978, ASEAN was ready, and understood what was at stake, namely that the security of Thailand was under threat, and stood firmly by ASEAN’s frontline state, partly because they might be the next domino under pressure. These are points worth reiterating and explaining to ASEAN youth who might not know their histories. Sixth, it is clear that the sense of ‘ASEAN-ness’, of belonging to an ASEAN community is still very lacking. How could we try to improve this sense of ‘ASEAN-ness’? Some might suggest creating ASEAN Institutions, such as an ASEAN Parliament; an ASEAN High Court; ASEAN Passports; an ASEAN foreign and security policy; ASEAN Central Bank; common activities that would encourage ASEAN togetherness: sports, ‘Miss ASEAN’ contests; youth camps, etc. But there are good reasons why ASEAN is moving slowly and cautiously in these directions. First, ASEAN is not a supra-national organisation, unlike the European Union, and thus cannot cede or pool sovereignty to central agencies. Secondly, there are good lessons from the current Euro-zone economic and debt problems, which show that perhaps ASEAN, like Greece, Ireland and Portugal, is not ready for the rigours of a central currency like the euro, which has to be based on budgetary discipline and financial prudence. As the ASEAN Charter is a very important document, which provides a rules-based foundation for ASEAN, more paragraphs would be useful to explain its significance, especially for students. Seventh, on the question of how to disseminate this useful book more widely, perhaps consideration should be given to the fact that there is still high illiteracy amongst the peoples of ASEAN. So it might be useful to prepare and to broadcast via TV and radio oral and television versions of this book, in even more simplified versions so that uneducated villagers can grasp the central messages of this book. Another factor to examine is how to get this book into the wider world, because ASEAN does not exist in a vacuum. Thus perhaps this book should be translated into the major world languages: Chinese, Russian, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, French, Spanish, Arabic, etc. Understandably, there will be problems of funding, translation, management and organisation. Here one might relate the anecdote about the difficulties of translating this book into Cambodian. An ISEAS researcher, who is Cambodian, was asked to handle the translation matters, and he found a so-called professional Cambodian translator. Later, to his horror, he discovered that this person had picked up his English skills on the street, and hence could not translate concepts like “sovereignty”. In the end, this ISEAS researcher had to redo the entire translation himself! This story illustrates the difficulties involved in arranging for a good translation, which also involves funding, as good translators are not cheap. To sum up, this book is very useful and forms a good start, but much more can be done. Perhaps a second follow-up book, possibly entitled “Understand Your ASEAN” might be written and published, which might tackle the harder issues and questions of supra-nationality, compliance and punishment for noncompliance with ASEAN rules, the implications of the ASEAN Charter, how to really achieve the three ASEAN communities. A panel of the usual suspects, also known as experts, might be convened to address these issues and to write the second book. Mark Hong is a Senior Visiting Research Fellow at ISEAS. He has co-edited “Southeast Asia in a New Era” with Rodolfo Severino and Elspeth Thomson.
Books to Read ASC Publications in the Pipeline:
“ASEAN-US Relations: What are the Talking Points?” Edited by Dr Pavin Chachavalpongpun, Lead Researcher for Political and Strategic Affairs at the ASC, the book is based on the recent conference on ASEAN-US Relations attended by high-ranking officials from ASEAN, experts, and academics. The issues discussed included US military presence in the region, cooperation on maritime security, US-China relations, US policy towards Myanmar, and providing financial and technical assistance from the US to ASEAN countries. It was acknowledged that ASEAN occupies a complex strategic and economic position between the US and China. Experts also agreed that there has been progress over the years, as demonstrated by the improvements in US-ASEAN cooperation programmes since dialogue relations were established in 1977. This book will no doubt provide valuable insights to ASEAN-US relations for academics and policy practitioners alike.
Visit the ISEAS Bookstore online at: http://bookshop.iseas.edu.sg/ISEAS/Index.jsp to browse publications on Southeast Asia and ASEAN.
Also available at the ISEAS Bookstore:
With a foreword by Mr Severino, former ASEAN
Authored by Amitav Acharya, “Whose Ideas Matter? “ is
Secretary-General, this book assesses the differ-
the first book to explore the diffusion of ideas and
ent dimensions of ASEAN-India relations in the
norms in the international system from the perspective
context of the evolving dynamics in the Asia-
of local actors, with Asian regional institutions as its
Pacific region, particularly the rise of China.
ASC Updates ASC Activities Ongoing and To Come: 9 September 2011— ASC is working with the Global Foundation of Australia to organise an ASEAN -Australia Roundtable on Food Security, Climate Change and Energy in Singapore. Involving members of the academic, policy and business communities from ASEAN nations and from Australia, and representatives of the ASEAN Secretariat, the Roundtable will focus on these contemporary issues, taking into account the consideration of these issues within and by ASEAN and its Dialogue and the East Asia Summit processes. 20-23 September 2011—ASC will conduct the 3rd Train-the-Trainers Course on the ASEAN Charter at the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta, with the sponsorship of the Japan-Singapore Partnership Programme for the 21st Century (JSPP21). The project builds the capacity and knowledge of potential trainers from the ASEAN Secretariat and the ASEAN member-states on the ASEAN Charter , so that they can share this knowledge with wider audiences in ASEAN member countries. 4 October 2011: The ASC and the Embassy of Japan in Singapore will convene an “ASEAN-Japan Workshop: Engaging with the ASEAN Connectivity Master Plan” on 4 October 2011, at ISEAS. Participants representing ASEAN policy makers, business sector, and international financial institutions will exchange views and opinions on implementing the Master Plan. The workshop further serves to engage and inform the private sector within ASEAN and Japan about the opportunities offered by ASEAN connectivity. 6-7 October 2011: ASC, in partnership with the Republic of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI), is organising a workshop on “Participating in ASEAN Economic Community” in Yangon, Myanmar. The aim of the workshop is to share Myanmar’s experience and those of selected ASEAN countries in adhering to the principles and commitments of the AEC Blueprint. Participants to the workshop will include government officials, academics, and members of the business community. Check out our Events calendar on the ASC website as we update it regularly with new activities. Next Month in ASEAN: 2 September: National Day, Vietnam—On 2 September 1945, President Ho Chi Minh read the Declaration of Independence at Ba Dinh Square in Hanoi, officially proclaiming Vietnamese independence and sovereignty from France and Japan. This day marked the establishment of the former Democratic Republic of Vietnam and is the National Independence Day of the current Socialist Republic of Vietnam. 16 September: Malaysia Day — Malaysia Day commemorates the establishment of the Malaysian Federation on 16 September 1963. The Malaysian Federation initially included Malaya, North Borneo, Sarawak, and Singapore, which later separated to become an independent nation state on 9 August 1965. Malaysia’s formation came after the introduction of the Malaysia Bill to the Malayan Parliament on 9 July 1963 and consent from the Malaya Federation’s then head of state on 29 August 1963. 24 September: Constitution Day, Cambodia— Cambodia celebrates the anniversary of the new Constitution, signed by King Sihanouk in 1993. The new constitution’s adoption transformed the country into a constitutional monarchy, with the King as the Head of State and the National Assembly holding legislative power. The day also marks the re-coronation of King Norodom Sihanouk, overthrown by General Lon Nol in 1970. 26-28 September: Pchum Ben Festival, Cambodia— The Pchum Ben festival takes place on the fifteenth day of the tenth month of the Khmer calendar. During this time, Cambodian Buddhists gather at temples and make food offerings to monks as a way of generating merits for deceased relatives. In some rural areas, food (usually rice or rice-balls) is thrown into the air or into an empty field and imagined to directly transfer to the dead. The festival lasts fifteen days.
ASC Updates ASEAN News in Review: ASEAN Day On 8 August, ASEAN celebrated its 44th anniversary in Jakarta. In a speech on behalf of Indonesia, ASEAN’s current Chair, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono stated that ASEAN is already able to manage regional affairs and can eventually gain an international platform. The President cited examples of the Association’s roles in the border conflict between Thailand and Cambodia, the South China Sea dispute, and its leadership in the East Asia Summit and the ASEAN Regional Forum. The President encouraged more interactions among the region’s populations to create “a sense of ownership” and called on Member States to make a common visa arrangement in the near future. Source: “ASEAN can Build on Achievements to be Global Player: Yudhoyono”, 8 August 2011, Channel News Asia. 43rd ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) Meeting, 11 August 2011 Indonesian Trade Minister Mari Elka Pangestu, who chaired the 2011 AEM Meeting in Manado, Indonesia, recently spoke to the Jakarta Post on the AEC’s progress and challenges. The Minister said that most of the AEC Blueprint plans are already on track. So far, eight countries have joined the Single Window mechanism aimed at larger trade facilitation, ASEAN investment within the last year increased by 12 percent, and tariff reductions and customs continue to work on the services sector. Minister Pangestu stressed the need for equitable ASEAN growth and to facilitate the work of SMEs which make up 96 percent of the business sector and 30-60 percent of workforce absorption in the region. Indonesian Trade Ministry data show that 73.5 percent of the measures required for the Community have been fulfilled. Source: “ASEAN Community 2015 ‘on track but still more work to do”, 13 August 2011, The Jakarta Post. China Ratifies Third Protocol Amending the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation The top legislature of China, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC), has approved ratification of the Third Protocol amending ASEAN’s Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC). The protocol will also apply to Hong Kong SAR and Macau SAR. The Third Protocol amending the TAC allows for regional organisations—such as the European Union (EU) —to accede to the Treaty. The protocol’s ratification by current signatories will pave the way for the EU to become a party to the TAC. Signed in February 1976, the TAC is one of the basic political documents of ASEAN. Since August 9, nine countries including Singapore, France, and Malaysia have ratified the third amending protocol. The third protocol was signed by all TAC signatories in Hanoi on 23 July 2010. Sources: “China’s Legislature Approves Bill Ratifying ASEAN Protocol”, 26 August 2011, Xinhua News Agency, and Centre for International Law, National University of Singapore.
More updates and analyses on ASEAN at the ASEAN Studies Centre website: www.aseanstudiescentre.org.
The monthly newsletter of the ASEAN Studies Centre