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Sense and perspective in Asean integration

New graduates: Students attending their college graduation ceremony at Fudan University in Shanghai. The World Bank expects China to have 200 million college graduates by 2030 – more than the entire US workforce. – Reuters


THESE past couple of weeks or so have been replete with discussion on Asean.

The Minister of International Trade and Industry had a frank and open dialogue at an event organised by the Asean Business Club which focused on what is still not happening on the ground despite pronouncement of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) at the end of last year.

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AEC: Shining light of the East

Great potential: The young population of Asean will be a huge part of the growing middle class which, on the demand side, will drive the consumption of a multiplicity of goods and service


THE level of interest in the Asean Economic Community (AEC) among the business community in the world at large has increased tremendously since its pronouncement at the end of last year.

While not discounting its imperfections, foreigners are more focused on the opportunities and promise of the single market and production base.

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Don’t miss the Asean bus

Economic powerhouse: This is Asean. That frequently cited combined GDP of US2.6 trillion, seventh largest economy in the world, poised to become the third largest, after only China and India, in 2030 or just after.


BREADTALK, a Singapore bakery, will open its first outlet in Myanmar in early 2017, in a franchise agreement with that country’s real estate giant the Shwe Taung Group. Breadtalk has spread to nearly 800 locations in primarily Asean countries.

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Brexit – Lies, lies and statistics

THE debate in Britain on whether the country should get out or remain in the European Union (EU) is fascinating on a number of scores.

The statistics often adduced on the cost and benefit of doing one or the other have become mired in a sea of lies and contradiction. Many are confused, and are turning away from the numbers, often disbelieving them.

It has become a strategy the quitters have stumbled upon. They started it by contending the EU cost Britain £350mil a week. Money, they evocatively proclaimed, that is better spent on the ailing National Health Service. When their contention was contradicted, as the UK actually gets back quite a bit of that money, they quietly dropped that particular number.

They still played around with the aggregated £18bil number, ignoring EU rebates and discounts which left the net contribution at £8.5bil.

There is no consensus number on how much economic activity and growth the 500 million EU market generates for Britain against that net contribution, but the remain side are clear, should Britain decide to leave on June 23, there would be a loss of over a million jobs, including 100,000 in the City of London. Denied of course by the quitters.

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Asean – strategic impact of not taking a stand

Contested atoll: Boats at Scarborough Shoal in the SCS are shown in this handout photo provided by Planet Labs, and captured on March 12. The head of US naval operations, Admiral John Richardson said the US military had seen Chinese activity around Scarborough Shoal in the northern part of the Spratly archipelago, about 200km west of the Philippine base of Subic Bay. – Reuters

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Friendship, family and money, but South China Sea?

AT the Mekong-Lancang Cooperation Leaders’ Meeting in Hainan last Wednesday, Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang offered the five Asean countries along the Mekong river that attended it with China, US$11.5bil in loans and credit for infrastructure and other projects.

There was no time frame on disbursement and there was no indication on how the facilities would be distributed among Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, who were all well represented at the meeting. Li acknowledged how the countries involved were all “family.”

The Lancang-Mekong Co-operation framework was launched in November 2014 in Myanmar at the 17th China-Asean Summit. At the time US$20bil in loans had been offered for the construction of roads, ports and railways – all much needed particularly by the less developed Asean countries.

The occasion in Myanmar provided a measure of relief to China following suspension of the Myitsone dam project in 2011.

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Going’s good in US-Asean relations... but Trump?

Disputed island: An aerial view of construction at Mabini (Johnson) Reef by China, in the disputed Spratley Islands, in the South China Sea. China has deployed two batteries of sophisticated surface-to-air missile launchers to a disputed island in the South China Sea, news reports said on Feb 17. Satellite imagery from ImageSat International showed two batteries of eight missile launchers on Woody Island, part of the contested Paracel Islands, media reported. – EPA 

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Brexit: Reflections on Asean and Malaysia

BRITAIN is in the throes of an intense national debate on whether or not to remain in the European Union (EU), the decision on which will be made in a referendum on June 23.

The issues involved and the conduct of the debate have a relevance to Asean and Malaysia, even if we may seem distant from them.

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AEC 2025: Action out of words

I was in Vientiane earlier this month and, among other things, formally handed over the Chair of Asean-BAC to Laos, represented by Oudet Souvannavong. From the various meetings and discussions held, it was clear that Laos was committed to follow through with the AEC 2025 Blueprint and the unfinished business of the community pronounced in 2015, last year.

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Time for a hard-wired Malaysia Inc

Given many present challenges and new commitments, it is time to take a relook

DURING his time as Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad introduced the Malaysia Incorporated concept on Feb 28, inspired by the practice in Japan.

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Be rational and honest about TPPA

TPPA dialogue: International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed at a dialogue on TPPA with Members of Parliament from Pakatan Rakyat in Kuala Lumpur recently.

THE Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) is a huge commitment and it is unsurprising it has engaged enormous public interest. The debate over it, however, will only serve the nation well if is not excitable and emotional, not just alarmist without suggesting means of enhancing Malaysia’s capability, and not purely academic or self-serving.

Read more: Be rational and honest about TPPA