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Trump’s 100 days... and still going wrong?

Mixed and uncertain: Trump’s rapid fire of orders to fulfil promises he made for his first 100 days were not as easy to shoot as he thought. – Bloomberg

PRESIDENT Donald Trump exploded from the blocks after his inauguration on Jan 20, but soon found out he was not in a sprint but in a long-distance race.

His rapid fire of orders to fulfil promises he made for his first 100 days were not as easy to shoot as he thought.

Most notable, of course, were the executive orders on entry into the United States, immigrants and refugees. The way these orders were shot down was one of the most heartening evidences that the liberal system in America was alive and well – not just the laws, but the people willing to fight for others – and that the Trump avalanche could not crush it.

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Barriers to Asean promise

Networking to innovate: Asean Business Club (ABC), together with Asean Business Advisory Council (Asean-BAC) inked a memorandum of cooperation with nine Japanese business associations to form the Asean-Japan Innovation Network (AJIN) in Tokyo yesterday. In a group photo at the event were Tan Sri Munir Majid, president of ABC (front row, fourth from right), Kazuo Ohmori, chairman of Sumimoto Corp and vice-chairman of Asean-Japan Business Council (front row, fifth from right), and Jose Maria Salvador A. Concepcion III, chairman of Asean-BAC (front row, sixth from right). Also present were International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed (back row, second from left), heads of Japanese business associations that are members of AJIN as well as visiting Asean Economic Ministers.

IT is true that with a total gross domestic product (GDP) of US$2.7 trillion, Asean is the seventh largest economy in the world – if it were one economy.

It is also true that if the Asean GDP reached US$9.2 trillion by 2050, it would be the world’s fourth largest economy.

To become that fourth largest economy, however, Asean’s own projections into 2025 recognise a number of conditions have to be fulfilled.

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US foreign policies – in a flux and risky

Nice to meet you: Tillerson shakes hands with Xi at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. – AP

IN the course of a few days last week, United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson varied American policy on North Korea and China three times.

First, during his debut visit to East Asia, he threatened in Seoul that all options, including military, were being considered by the US against North Korea for its belligerent nuclear weapons development programme, and intimated that China was not doing enough to warn Pyongyang.

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Asean’s next 50 years


ASEAN needs to be revitalised. It needs the kind of leadership that led to its establishment on Aug 8, 1967 or, for example, to the clear and defining statement on ZOPFAN, the Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality, in 1971.

Instead, it has not been able to take a clear stand on challenging issues or to carve an immoveable objective to be achieved in a set time. Yes, Asean talks about a community, or rather waffles about it, but it is short on achievement and the time frame is constantly extended.

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Universal values, not just globalisation

THE gravest threat of the rise of nationalist populism is to the universal values and practices of a civilised world which took several decades to develop. It is this that modern tribalism in Europe and America seeks to cannibalise.

We have been so obsessed – and this is a failing – by the economics of globalisation, the trade and finance and free movement of labour, that we do not give higher value to the fundamental human values and intercourse that are at risk.

The world has become more possessed by economics than even Marx could have predicted. The disparity of income and wealth is as wide as he saw in post-industrial revolution Europe.

The political turmoil of Leninism, the rise of fascism, the Gulag

and the Holocaust – and war – were some of the worst outcomes that followed.

We must recognise this looming threat. We will not get there unless we first recognise the main failing of globalisation, this obsession with economics.

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Hail our white brethren in the West Read

AGAINST the rapid-fire of Donald Trump’s presidential orders, there is no more heart-warming sight than the demonstration of support for those at whom the orders were directed.

The largely white populace in America – and elsewhere in the West – came out in word and deed for the victims of Trump’s presidential immigration order that particularly discriminated against Muslims from seven countries and refugees from Syria.

Hundreds of thousands turned out in New York, Washington and other American cities, as well as in London and other western capitals, against such discrimination.

Lawmakers and parliamentarians thumbed their noses at Trump, banged their tables and made loud speeches against the violation of rights without fear or favour.

Before this, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande had defended the humanitarian rights of refugees even though Berlin and Paris had been attacked by Muslim terrorists, taking a principled stand against almost unbearable pressure.

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Asean to-do list in 2017

IT is not business as usual. As Asean’s array of official and private sector meetings roll out for the year, urgent thought must be given to dramatically new challenges beyond the stubborn issues that continue to arrest the region’s meaningful integration.

The advent of Donald Trump as President of the United States has overturned many regional assumptions and threatens to cause economic as well as political turmoil. These developments should make Asean think crisis management – even if, in the end, the worst does not happen.

There are a number of “what ifs” which should be addressed.

What if Trump causes a trade war to break out between America and China by imposing the punitive import duties on Chinese goods that he has threatened?

It will then not be a simple outcome of relocation of manufacturing centres from China to low-cost Vietnam, for instance, as some have rather sanguinely suggested. The supply chains to which many Asean exports are linked for the finished Chinese product would be broken. There will be export disruption – not just for China.

Read more: Asean to-do list in 2017

Asean and the new world disorder

THE buzzword among think tanks on global strategy in the West is “World Disorder”. This follows, particularly, Donald Trump’s victory last November in the United States Presidential election – he will be inaugurated on Jan 20 – but also the British Brexit vote in June and anxiety over the possible triumph of populist right-wing parties, in France especially, this year.

There is a common opposition in these developments to the global and local liberal order, to free trade and movement of peoples, and to the political value system that has characterised the West and, tangentially, the rest of the world.

However the reality for emerging and developing countries is likely to be different, and the stack of concerns over disturbance to the world order is not the same.

For the longest time those not in the West had been buzzing, if we remember, about a new world, particularly economic, order. There has been some little progress, notably establishment of the G-20 in 1999 whose leaders’ summit did not convene until 2008 following the Western financial crisis, but by and large the institutions of the international order set up at the end of the Second World War remained intact.

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At the end, no new beginning... so there must be

Successful leader: Lee Kuan Yew has made Singapore economically successful as a result of the purely utilitarian benefit of the rule of the law.

THE descent from globalism to nativism is the defining story of 2016, but the analysis of its cause and projection of the world into 2017 by intellectual custodians of the liberal order are flawed and offer no guide on how to break the fall.

Read more: At the end, no new beginning... so there must be

Now who will be Trumped?

THE popular political parlour game running into the new year is what to expect from Donald Trump when he becomes United States President on Jan 20.

Not having expected him to be elected in the first place, the immediate reaction was calamity, calamity. Then an early dawn of hope that what is promised or threatened in a long presidential campaign is not or cannot be carried out in the cold light of day. After that, as the President-elect made his proposed Cabinet appointments and held court as no incoming President has done before, the mood swung back to despair.

What is constant is Trump will change things. It is the one clear message, not only in his presidential campaign but also in the book which is his statement of intent: Crippled America, How to Make America Great Again. Conventional wisdom is out. The establishment have failed and must be replaced.

The one thing he will definitely do in 2017 is to try to achieve for America an economic growth rate of 3.5%. The trend line is at 2%. Equity markets shot up in expectation of the boost to growth he promises through tax cuts and infrastructure spending.

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Trump: disruption, risk and response


IF, as president, Donald Trump carries out all that he proposed – and threatened – to do during the bruising US presidential election campaign, there will no doubt be disruption to the liberal political and economic system, both in his country and in the global order hitherto under American leadership.

What he threatened, particularly, would damage liberal values.

Read more: Trump: disruption, risk and response