PRESS COVERAGE
  • The ASEAN summit on June 22 and 23 in Bangkok reached consensus on a number of key issues that analysts say will bring the bloc closer together and make it an “agenda setter”. Leaders attending the 34th Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit emphasized “ASEAN centrality” — advancing and implementing policies that are based on regional interest. In a statement issued after the regional meeting, the leaders of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam “reaffirmed the importance of maintaining ASEAN centrality and unity in our community-building efforts and engagement with external partners”. Mustafa Izzuddin, research fellow at National University of Singapore’s Institute of South Asian Studies, told China Daily that ASEAN centrality “underscored the importance of making the regional organization more people-centric and people-friendly”. Herman Joseph Kraft, executive director of the Manila-based Institute for Strategic and Development Studies, said promoting ASEAN centrality is about making the regional bloc “an agenda setter for multilateral agreements”. Kraft said ASEAN will also serve as a platform for discussions of broader issues, in addition to those that only concern the Southeast Asian region. He cited as an example the call by the ASEAN leaders for the immediate conclusion of negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a proposed free trade agreement. ASEAN led the formation of the RCEP in 2012 and was supported by six other countries: China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. If completed, it will be the largest multilateral trade deal in history, accounting for about one-third of the global economy. But negotiations over the trade pact stalled after some countries were reluctant to slash tariffs. Prayut Chan-o-Cha, Thailand’s prime minister and ASEAN summit chairman, said at a media briefing that ASEAN hopes negotiations on the agreement can be concluded by the end of this year, since it would help Southeast Asian leaders manage uncertainties in the region. Kavi Chongkittavorn, senior fellow at the Bangkok-based Institute of Security and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University, said the conclusion of RCEP talks after more than six years of negotiations would allow the bloc to “send a strong message to the world that free trade and multilateralism are still alive and well”. Siriwan Chutikamoltham, academic director of the Nanyang Business School at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, praised ASEAN’s support for conclusion of negotiations on the free trade agreement. She said the RCEP would expand trade, help boost ASEAN economic growth and push back against trade protectionism. But Siriwan said she opposes “a hasty deal”. “Some sticky points of the RCEP, such as environmental protection, need careful analysis and negotiation. Many ASEAN nations depend on agriculture and fisheries that are so vulnerable to environmental degradation,” she said. The Southeast Asian leaders also published their own position on the Indo-Pacific strategy — a global security and trade concept that encompasses Asia, Africa and the Pacific and Indian oceans — and adopted the Bangkok Declaration on Combating Marine Debris in ASEAN. The Bangkok Declaration was drafted on March 5 amid reports that Southeast Asian nations are among the biggest sources of plastic products that pollute oceans. ASEAN leaders have committed to reducing marine pollution and to implementing regional and local action plans to address the growing waste problem. Izzuddin of National University of Singapore said it is time for ASEAN to “do something more concerted and coordinated in curbing marine pollution, which is a public health issue”. Theresa Mundita Lim, executive director of the Philippines-based ASEAN Center for Biodiversity, said the adoption of the Bangkok Declaration will not only affect ASEAN’s marine environment but also other seas and oceans worldwide. Thai Prime Minister Prayut, in his news briefing, said the regional bloc’s outlook on the Indo-Pacific strategy is based on ASEAN’s view that the Indo-Pacific region should be seen as a region of cooperation, development and prosperity. Prayut said ASEAN leaders agreed to develop deeper relations with external partners, with ASEAN “playing a central and strategic role” in the Indo-Pacific region.
    2019-07-02
  • Being at different development stages, the 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations must form partnerships based on real understanding to achieve inclusive and sustainable economies, said speakers at an international forum. The level of prosperity should not be measured by the total growth of a country, but by the living quality of the poorest 40 percent, said Supachai Panitchpakdi, former deputy prime minister of Thailand and former director-general of the World Trade Organization. Speaking during the 2019 ASEAN Community Leadership and Partnership Forum held in Bangkok from June 23 to 24, Supachai said ASEAN countries need to unite to develop strong rules of law and a peaceful society. He added that partnerships will help achieve the 17 sustainable development goals listed by the United Nations. The SDGs address issues including the eradication of extreme poverty, halting deforestation, promoting gender equality and reducing conflict. Thailand is this year’s chair of ASEAN, a regional bloc formed by Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos and the Philippines. “Trade tension is something that is going to have a negative impact on the global trade system and economic growth. ASEAN will also suffer from it because it is an open economy,” said Supachai. Maintaining close cooperation will be effective for the bloc to cope with the fast-changing situation, he added. Held in conjunction with the 34th ASEAN Summit in Bangkok, the forum was jointly organized by Kingsley Strategic Institute in Malaysia, ASEAN Business Advisory Council, ASEAN Studies Centre of Chulalongkorn University, and Bangkok-based organizations Nation-Building Institute and Asia Centre. China Daily was the media partner of the forum. Under the theme Building Partnership for a Sustainable and Inclusive ASEAN, around 300 representatives from government, business, academic, think tanks and civil society gathered to discuss challenges and strategic issues facing the region. Topics included sustainable development, the young generation, the digital economy and connectivity. ALSO READ: CICA members call for sustainable development in Asia “We have to fulfill the AEC as much as possible,” said Supachai, referring to the ASEAN Economic Community. He noted that more work is required throughout the region to eliminate trade barriers. With about 6,000 non-tariff measures in ASEAN, governments need to expose themselves and create a better business environment, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises. The AEC was formally established in 2015 to promote economic integration and enhance the region’s global competitiveness as a whole. Pichet Durongkaveroj, Thailand’s minister of digital economy and society, said that through greater cooperation and sustainability in ASEAN, regional development will become more vibrant. Connectivity in transportation and digital infrastructure will also become stronger, he added. “Time is on our side,” said Pichet. “Transformation is the key word. It rests upon all ASEAN economies to define what sort of transformation each and every ASEAN member is going through, which is very crucial.” Pichet said his ministry is gearing up for a digital Thailand through the SIGMA framework, which focuses on cybersecurity, digital infrastructure, digital government, digital manpower and digital applications. Kriengsak Chareonwongsak, chairman of Nation-Building Institute, said governments must prioritize issues concerning sustainable and inclusive development. He added that partnerships among ASEAN members require more than collaboration, cooperation and coordination, which is why leaderships and management can promote integration and synergy. “The public, private and people sectors working toward integration in the sense of partnership could produce marvelous results,” said Kriengsak. Michael Yeoh, president of Kingsley Strategic Institute said the digital economy will drive the future growth of ASEAN. “With the growth of the internet of things, big data, artificial intelligence and virtual reality, ASEAN needs to make a quantum leap to compete in the digital era,” he said. Asia will be the main driver of global growth over the coming decade, and ASEAN can take advantage of this phenomenon, said Arin Jira, chairman of the ASEAN Business Advisory Council. He said ASEAN should engage in regional partnerships through cooperation frameworks like Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC, as well as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership – a free trade agreement between ASEAN and six of its FTA partners including China. The RCEP is expected to conclude negotiations this year. A better connected ASEAN is needed for the future of the young generation, improving areas like physical transport and digital technology, said Suthiphand Chirathivat, executive director of the ASEAN Studies Center and professor emeritus of economics at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. The young generation in ASEAN spends an average of six hours and four minutes online daily, with 61 percent of time spent on leisure, in comparison to 39 percent on work, according to a 2018 survey of 64,000 ASEAN citizens by the World Economic Forum.
    2019-06-25
  • ASEAN countries need to work together to unleash the potential of technology to develop the digital economy, create new business opportunities and spur regional growth. This was discussed by speakers at a China Daily Asia Leadership Roundtable panel session in Bangkok on June 24, as part of the 2019 ASEAN Community Leadership and Partnership Forum. Held on June 23-24 in conjunction with the 34th ASEAN Summit in Bangkok, the forum was organized jointly by Kingsley Strategic Institute in Malaysia, the ASEAN Business Advisory Council, the ASEAN Studies Center of Chulalongkorn University, and Bangkok-based organizations Nation-Building Institute and Asia Centre. The forum’s theme was Building Partnerships for a Sustainable and Inclusive ASEAN. New technologies such as 5G will create opportunities for the ASEAN digital economy, said Dar Wong, executive vice-president of the ASEAN-China Commerce Association. ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, is a regional group comprising 10 member countries – Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Laos and Vietnam. Thailand is the chair of ASEAN this year. “ASEAN cannot deny that it will be influenced by 5G,” said Wong, adding that with the rolling out of the new generation of mobile technology, everything, from work environment to security systems, will become obsolete and people should be aware of new things to emerge soon. “We are in an age where we control the machines by artificial intelligence and other solutions, but with 5G, we will control the robots and then the robots will control the machines,” said Wong, referring to the panel’s theme: ASEAN in the Age of Disruption – Wiring Up ASEAN for the Digital Economy. Jason Chiu, founder and CEO of Hong Kong tech startup Cherrypicks, said ASEAN countries need to cooperate internally and externally, not just for technology advancement but more importantly for the construction of infrastructure. Taking, for example, the idea of smart cities, Chiu said the concept is not about technology only, but about citizens and data. “A lot of technologies are available today, yet legal systems facilitating infrastructure and human behavior, consumer mindset and society are not ready yet,” said Chiu, whose company is working on sensor networks for airports, subways, railways and shopping malls, to generate location big data and make such venues smarter in Hong Kong. “We need to learn from others, developing what is relevant and suitable for ASEAN to find its own blueprint … ASEAN countries should work together as a region,” said Chiu, noting that China’s Belt and Road Initiative can also be a platform for joint cooperation on both hard and digital infrastructure. Moderating the session, Barbara Meynert, senior adviser of Hong Kong supply chain and logistics conglomerate Fung Group, said there are tremendous opportunities for ASEAN for the growth of the digital economy. “ASEAN is an important economy as it ranks third in the world in terms of population, sixth in GDP and fourth in trade value. But ASEAN is not yet a digital economy, it is only emerging,” said Meynert, noting the digital sector’s contribution to ASEAN’s GDP is still relatively low compared with those of China, Europe and the United States. From the payments perspective, ASEAN is a very dynamic market, said Laetitia Moncarz, director for payments markets, ASEAN region, at the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), a global financial messaging platform based in Belgium. Moncarz said the region’s high GDP growth, rising megacities and large number of tech-savvy young people make it an attractive market for the payment industry, especially when it comes to technology. Moncarz said many ASEAN countries are already participating in, or considering using, SWIFT’s Global Payment Innovation (GPI) platform, launched to improve the cross-border payment experience. Around 50 percent of the millions of payments globally under GPI are credited end-to-end within 30 minutes, she said. For the banking industry, pain has already been felt due to the emergence of fintech, said Eddie Hu, chief representative for Malaysia and Thailand at Hong Kong-based Chong Sing Holdings FinTech Group. In a report by global advisory firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, top banking executives fear that more than 20 percent of financial services business will be under threat from fintech by 2020. In addition, Hu said traditional banks in ASEAN, looking to offer a seamless business experience, can face difficulties getting licensed to enter other countries in the region. He hopes that ASEAN – to catch up with fintech, in a paradigm shift for the future – can develop a shared financial world for everyone. Noting that China spends more on semiconductor imports, mainly from the US, than on oil, Pindar Wong, chairman of internet financial infrastructure consultancy VeriFi (Hong Kong), said China and the region are facing a “silicon shock”, which is going to take 10 to 15 years to resolve. “The accusations (against Chinese telecommunications giant) Huawei are basically unsubstantiated as there is no evidence to say there is surveillance,” said Wong, noting that opportunities for ASEAN lie in technology transfer from China to the region and developing the region to be a manufacturing base for 5G equipment. Wong said ASEAN needs to develop as a network of nations and create technical protocols to address the cross-border challenges it faces. Pornpimol Kanchanalak, adviser to Thailand’s minister of foreign affairs, said the Fourth Industrial Revolution, while bringing much change through innovative technology, does not provide a lot of room for mistakes, and that is why people need to be careful about the negative effects. She spoke of the importance of connecting people at risk of being left behind by the rapid development of the digital economy, and paying heed to the job displacement caused by technology and automation. Speaking of the digital economy’s impact on poverty, Goh Peng Ooi, group executive chairman of Malaysian software company Silverlake Group, said previous industrial revolutions resulted in fewer working days per week, which shows that social problems accompanying technological development can eventually be solved. “Tech itself can include everybody – it is up to the leadership to make it good (for society),” said Cherrypick’s Chiu, on how technology can contribute to ASEAN’s inclusive development. Beneficiaries of the digital economy are the users rather than the creators, as increasing numbers of people gain access to and make use of technology to get information and grow business, said Yose Rizal Damuri, head of the economics department at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Jakarta-based think tank. “ASEAN states should open their doors for the investment from China, so they can use the platforms to create benefits for the economy,” said Yose. “It is time for ASEAN to come up with a set of rules, institutions and standards that could define the role of government in the cross-border digital economy,” he said. Yose said issues brought by the digital economy should be dealt with internationally, including discussing principles related to e-commerce in the negotiation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the proposed free trade agreement between the 10 ASEAN members and six of their FTA partners – China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India.
    2019-06-25
  • Malaysia forum: Smaller countries may suffer if US-China tensions persist Free trade is the basis for the world economy and shared prosperity is in the interest of all, according to speakers at a forum in Malaysia last week. Asia can play an increasingly important role by coming together for sustainable development that helps solve man-made geopolitical and geoeconomic problems. "In this highly globalized world, we believe that free as well as fair trade must be the touchstone in all international commercial and trade dealings," said Mohamed Azmin Ali, Malaysia's minister of economic affairs at an awards ceremony of the Asia Economic and Entrepreneurship Summit in Kuala Lumpur. He said that amid the trade tension between China and the United States, the world's two largest economies, smaller economies including Malaysia can expect to suffer consequences. Mohd Hatta Ramli, Malaysia's deputy minister of entrepreneur development, said: "The global trade and tech wars do not benefit anyone or any country and we will all lose, … we should look at win-win outcomes." Organized jointly by Kingsley Strategic Institute and the Pacific Basin Economic Council, the event brought together government leaders, entrepreneurs, academic researchers and experts from thinks tanks and civil society organizations to discuss and debate the theme, The Future of Asia in a New Era of Disruption and Trade Wars. China Daily was a media partner of the event. "The world now faces several geopolitical and geoeconomic threats, but I guess all the problems are created by men ourselves, so there should be solutions," Hatta told the audience on Thursday. "We should create a society, a country and a region that are safe for shared prosperity." Citing an HSBC report that Asian countries like China, India, Japan and the Republic of Korea will be among the world's top 10 biggest economies by 2030, Hatta said Asia is full of economic potential due to its large number of young people and the rapid development of digitalization. Globalization is the right way going forward, and Asia's future will need cooperation and partnership, said Su Ge, chair of the China National Committee for Pacific Economic Cooperation. "Trade wars serve nobody's interest,… cooperation is the only correct way for Sino-American trade-and it will be good for the two countries, to Asia, and in a sense, good to the world," said Su, also former president of the China Institute of International Studies. Noting President Xi Jinping's visit to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea on June 20-21 ahead of the G20 Osaka summit, Su said China is committed to regional stability through peace and negotiation. Speaking of the China-led Belt and Road Initiative, Su said it is about generating more cooperation in the region for mutual benefit. Minister Azmin Ali called for cooperation among ASEAN member states and under international initiatives like the Belt and Road Initiative, or the BRI. This view was echoed by Goh Peng Ooi, group executive chairman of Malaysian software company Silverlake Group, who said trade is what ties the world together. "Conflicts usually won't last long. … We have different systems, values, cultures, but one thing is that we all live economic lives-that is the thing that ties us together and that is why trade can tie us all together," said Goh. Cultivating the right attitude in society is also important for making use of connectivity, said Oh Ei Sun, senior fellow with the Singapore Institute of International Affairs. Noting that China has invested greatly in high-speed rail infrastructure, Oh said one of the main reasons for the country's rapid growth is its people's attitude of entrepreneurship. "China continues to be very eager to link up a large part of Asia," he said, referring to increasing investment under the BRI. "In a country like Malaysia, we do need more railway systems," said Oh. "Under BRI, China could indeed assist us both financially and technically to build such networks," said Oh. "We also welcome more Chinese investment in ports." The BRI can also help bridge development gaps among nations. "Asia is facing digital disruption and technological transformation on a scale that perhaps has never been seen before in the region," said Michael Yeoh, organizing chairman and president of Kingsley Strategic Institute. "However, while some parts of Asia are undergoing the fourth industrial revolution, some regions have not even seen the second industrial revolution." To bridge the huge development gap, Yeoh said it is important to emphasize and prioritize sustainable development, by resolving issues such as income, inequality, investment, innovation and infrastructure. While the advancement of digital technology can be part of future solutions addressing global and regional issues, Michael Walsh, chief executive of the Pacific Basin Economic Council, said it is also important to pay heed to the growing potential negative side effects. These include personal and corporate reputational risk, health issues, cyberbullying, and threats to intellectual property rights.
    2019-06-24
  • Asia is one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change and governments need to put more emphasis on developing a green economy in order to move toward sustainable development. This was an underlying theme at a China Daily Asia Leadership Roundtable titled Envisioning and Promoting the Green Economy: Towards a Sustainable and Transformative Asia, held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Thursday. “Asia is home to more than half of the world’s population but much less than half of its natural resources. Asia is also the fastest-growing source of new greenhouse gas emissions,” said Alexandra Boakes Tracy, president of Hong Kong-based Hoi Ping Ventures, noting the need for the region to adopt cleaner and more efficient modes of development for lasting economic progress. She said the transition toward a green economy is clearly on the way, as governments across the world are trying to adopt policies that foster green growth and align economic strategies with a need to respond to problems like climate change and constraints on water and other resources. The roundtable was held during the Asia Economic and Entrepreneurship Summit, which was organized jointly by Kingsley Strategic Institute and the Pacific Basin Economic Council. The summit brought together government leaders, entrepreneurs, academic researchers and experts from thinks tanks and civil society organizations to discuss and debate the future of Asia in a new era of disruption and trade conflicts. Tracy said the efforts made by the region are already transforming the financial market and creating huge demand for green technology and sustainable development. But Asia needs to invest more to tackle climate change, she said, as current spending is still much less than what is needed. The Asian Development Bank forecasts that Asia, to keep pace with climate change and economic growth, needs to invest US$1.7 trillion a year in infrastructure until 2030, with 16 percent of those funds required for climate adaptation and mitigation measures. Mitigation costs alone will amount to US$200 billion annually. Asia has significant resources for a sustainable green economy, said R. Puvaneswari, CEO of MYBiomass, a unit of the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology. Compared with an estimated 423 million tons of biomass available in the United States, Southeast Asia has 230 million tons of biomass, while China has 300 million tons of crop straw wastes and 300 million tons of forestry wastes, said Puvaneswari, noting Asia’s huge potential for developing the sustainable carbon resource that is able to replace petrochemical resources and generate abundant derivative products. No matter how natural resources, technologies or capital can be used for development, the key is that none of these investments end up creating conflicts among people, but rather unity and social cohesion, said Denison Jayasooria, chairman of the Asian Solidarity Economy Council. He said people should be at the center of green economy. Citing findings from a report by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, Jayasooria said the unequal distribution of wealth and resources remains a serious issue in the region. Besides the existence of poverty itself, examples include inefficient use of fuel for cooking. While companies in Asia need to adapt to green development, innovative technology, social protection measures and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, Jayasooria said they also must be human-rights friendly, making sure that their businesses are operating in a sustainable way and adding value to society. Social enterprises can be game-changers in addressing sustainability globally, said Yasmin Rasyid, program director of Social Entrepreneurship (MasSIVE) at the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC), a government-backed entrepreneur hub. MaGIC now has a public online platform where companies in Malaysia can check if they meet the standard and requirements to be listed online as a social enterprise. “The Malaysian government has strong faith that changing social entrepreneurship is critical,” Rasyid said. “This is not just about doing good to people, but about making companies adopt a more social and environmentally driven model, and how we can create a future where entrepreneurs are more conscious about what their business is to the society and environment.” Different countries in Asia have been implementing various measures to promote green finance, such as China’s goal of establishing a green financial system, Malaysia’s Green Technology Master Plan, and Bangladesh’s financial support for environmental and social businesses. But Tracy from Hoi Ping Ventures said the engagement of the private sector and the contribution of millennials, who are willing to put more money into sustainable investment, should be better recognized. “This will help establish a template which other people can follow, showing to the market that this can work and people can make money from it,” said Tracy, noting there are many financial institutions investing proactively to be greener and launching new products to meet the increasing demand. Moderator for the session was Mohamed Iqbal Rawther, group deputy chairman of property development company Farlim Group (Malaysia).
    2019-06-21
  • With Asia playing an increasingly important role in the global economy, the region’s countries are being urged to work together for robust and sustainable future growth. “The world now faces several geopolitical and geo-economic threats, but I guess all the problems are created by men ourselves, so there should be solutions,” said Mohd Hatta Ramli, Malaysia’s deputy minister of entrepreneur development. “We should create a society, a country and a region that is safe for shared prosperity.” Citing an HSBC report that Asian countries like China, India, Japan and the Republic of Korea will be among the world’s top 10 biggest economies by 2030, Hatta said Asia is full of economic potential due to its large number of young people and the rapid development of digitalization. “The global trade and tech wars do not benefit anyone or any country and we will all lose … we should look at win-win outcomes,” he said. Hatta was speaking at the Asia Economic and Entrepreneurship Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Thursday. Organized jointly by Kingsley Strategic Institute and the Pacific Basin Economic Council, with the support of China Daily, the event brought together government leaders, entrepreneurs, academic researchers and experts from thinks tanks and civil society organizations to discuss and debate the theme The Future of Asia in a New Era of Disruption and Trade Wars. “Malaysia is trying to position entrepreneurship as a lead contributor to GDP by 2030,” said Hatta. He noted that small and medium-sized enterprises account for over 37 percent of GDP at present, seen growing to more than 50 percent by 2020. A national entrepreneurship policy is expected to be launched by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on July 11, according to Hatta, who believes the new policy will be conducive to promoting innovation and creating more opportunities for youth. “Asia is facing digital disruption and technological transformation on a scale that perhaps has never been seen before in the region,” said Michael Yeoh, organizing chairman and president of Kingsley Strategic Institute. “However, while some parts of Asia are undergoing the fourth industrial revolution, some regions have not even seen the second industrial revolution.” To bridge the huge development gap, Yeoh said it is important to emphasize and prioritize sustainable development, by resolving issues such as income, inequality, investment, innovation and infrastructure. While the advancement of digital technology can be part of future solutions addressing global and regional issues, Michael Walsh, chief executive of the Pacific Basin Economic Council, said it is also important to pay heed to the growing potential negative side effects. These include personal and corporate reputational risk, health issues, cyberbullying, and threats to intellectual property rights. “The four ‘E’s will have a big impact on Asia’s future growth – economy, environment, employment and energy,” said Walsh. Globalization is the right way going forward, and Asia’s future will need cooperation and partnership, said Su Ge, chair of the China National Committee for Pacific Economic Cooperation. “Trade wars serve nobody’s interest … cooperation is the only correct way for Sino-American trade – and it will be good for the two countries, to Asia, and in a sense, good to the world,” said Su, also former president of the China Institute of International Studies. Noting Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on June 20-21 ahead of attending the G20 Osaka summit, Su said China is committed to regional stability through peace and negotiation. Su said it is necessary for Asian countries to jointly take regional integration to a higher level, including promoting negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership multilateral free trade pact. Speaking of the China-led Belt and Road Initiative, Su said it is not just about China helping others, but also about generating more cooperation in the region for mutual benefit. This view was echoed by Goh Peng Ooi, group executive chairman of Malaysian software company Silverlake Group, saying trade is what ties the world together. “Conflicts usually won’t last long … We have different systems, values, cultures, but one thing is that we all live economic lives – that is the thing that ties us together and that is why trade can tie us all together,” said Goh. For a small country like Brunei, improving infrastructure and enhancing connectivity is key for future development, as it can allow the country to export and transport its goods to more countries more cheaply, said Shazali Sulaiman, partner at consultancy KPMG Brunei. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ ASEAN Economic Community was formally established in 2015 to promote regional economic integration and improve competitiveness, but Sulaiman said there are still many challenges ahead to connect the member states. For example, visa-free travel in ASEAN countries for people who live in the region has not been fully realized yet, Sulaiman said, adding that tourism connectivity is important for regional economic connectivity and development. ASEAN is a regional bloc comprising 10 Southeast Asian nations – Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. Cultivating the right attitude in society is also important to making use of connectivity, said Oh Ei Sun, senior fellow with the Singapore Institute of International Affairs. Noting that China has invested greatly in high-speed rail infrastructure, Oh said one of the main reasons for the country’s rapid growth is its people’s attitude of entrepreneurship. “China continues to be very eager to link up a large part of Asia,” he said, referring to increasing investment under the BRI. “In a country like Malaysia, we do need more railway systems,” said Oh. Though China and Malaysia agreed to proceed with the East Coast Rail Link, he said more railway networks need to be built within the country, as well as linking it with Singapore to meet the high demand of cross-border travel. “Under BRI, China could indeed assist us both financially and technically to build such networks,” said Oh. “We also welcome more Chinese investment in ports.” Asia needs to adopt a cleaner and more efficient development mode for sustainable economic development, said Alexandra Boakes Tracy, president of Hong Kong-based Hoi Ping Ventures. She was speaking at a China Daily Asia Leadership Roundtable panel session themed Envisioning and Promoting the Green Economy: Towards a Sustainable and Transformative Asia. “Asia is home to more than half of the world’s population but much less than half of its natural resources. Asia is also the fastest-growing source of new greenhouse gas emissions,” said Tracy, adding that regional financial institutions are already investing proactively in green finance. A ceremony was held alongside the summit to present the Asia Business Leadership Excellence Awards and Lifetime Achievement Awards to recognize the efforts of entrepreneurs from around Asia. Mohamed Azmin Ali, Malaysia’s minister of economic affairs, said amid the trade conflict between China and the US, the world’s two largest economies, smaller economies including Malaysia can be expected to suffer consequences. “In this highly globalized world, we believe that free as well as fair trade must be the touchstone in all international commercial and trade dealings,” said Azmin, who called for cooperation among ASEAN member states and under international initiatives like the BRI. “While the BRI will help bridge the connectivity gap in the region, even more importantly it will open doors to the great expansion of global trade, enabling economies in the region to mutually grow and prosper,” said Azmin.
    2019-06-21
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