“ASEAN’s RCEP Dilemma”, a Commentary by Malcolm Cook


Commentary 2016/59, 14 September 2016

The difficulty of ASEAN and the wider ASEAN-led diplomatic processes to reach a common position on the maritime rights disputes between China (and Taiwan) and five ASEAN member-states in the South China Sea dominates coverage of ASEAN. Intractable differences between the US and China over how the ASEAN Defence Minister Meeting Plus process should address (or not) the South China Sea was widely blamed for the failure to produce the promised joint statement last year in Kuala Lumpur. As this story goes, ASEAN’s unrivalled regional convening role was usurped by major power disagreement.


“Taking Baby Steps in the South China Sea”, a Commentary by Hoang Thi Ha


Commentary 2016/58, 8 September 2016

As tensions rise in the South China Sea (SCS) and durable solutions to resolve disputes remain elusive, ASEAN and China are turning to diplomatic tools to lower the risk of armed clashes. The challenge is to ensure that these tools are up to the task, and to this end they should be taken seriously and implemented in good faith.


“The Case of the Missing Civil Society Organisations CSO at the ASEAN Summit”, a Commentary by Hoang Thi Ha


Commentary 2016/57, 7 September 2016

ASEAN Leaders met with representatives from the business sector, youth groups and parliamentarians on the sidelines of the 28th ASEAN Summit yesterday in Vientiane, but civil society organisations (CSO) were noticeably absent this time. This does not come as a surprise since the intermittent convening of the ASEAN Leaders-CSO interface over the years has become a regular reminder of ASEAN’s uneasy relationship with CSOs in the region.


“Is Mahathir’s Reconciliation with Anwar Possible?”, a Commentary by Norshahril Saat


Commentary 2016/56, 7 September 2016

Dr Mahathir Mohamad was referred to as a Malaysian “maverick” for many reasons. During his 22 years reign as Prime Minister, he survived numerous leadership challenges by senior UMNO leaders; led his party to two-thirds majority in every elections; checked the authority of Malay rulers; and propelled Malaysia to become a modern and industrialised economy. In fact, he continues to be a colourful and unpredictable leader after stepping down from power. Since his retirement in 2003, he had left UMNO in 2008; re-joined the party in 2009, and left it again early this year. Now, he is spearheading a new opposition party, Bersatu.


“Inclusivity and Myanmar’s Peace Negotiations”, a commentary by Su-Ann Oh


Commentary 2016/55, 5 September 2016 

The Union Peace Conference, also known as the 21st Century Panglong Conference, that took place on 31 August to 3 September in Naypyitaw was the first major peace conference held with the NLD at the helm of the government. Its aim was not only to continue the peace process begun by former President Thein Sein in 2012, but also to symbolize the National League for Democracy’s (NLD) commitment to securing peace and reconciliation in the country.



““Go Local!”: Mixed Signals in Malaysia’s Trade Policy”, a Commentary by Tham Siew Yean


Commentary 2016/54, 5 September 2016

Is Malaysia sliding down the slippery road of trade protectionism? The Star Online, Friday 2 September 2016 reported that the Prime Minister of Malaysia wants mega project developers as well as the automotive and aerospace industries to use more locally made products and components to keep a check on imports.


“Previewing the 28th and 29th ASEAN Summits and Related Meetings”, a Commentary by Jason Salim and Tang Siew Mun


Commentary 2016/53, 5 September 2016

From 5-8 September, leaders from countries constituting 56.7% of the world’s GDP output will descend upon the Lao capital Vientiane as the nation plays host to the ASEAN Summit and its related meetings.

Besides the 10 leaders from the ASEAN member states, leaders from eight other countries – China, India, Japan, Republic of Korea, Russia, Australia, New Zealand and the United States – will not only meet together at the East Asia Summit, but individually, most of them will also attend their respective plus-one summits with ASEAN. ASEAN’s strategic weight will be amplified by the attendance of world leaders like US President Barack Obama, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.


“Vietnam, ASEAN and the ‘Consensus Dilemma’” a commentary by Le Hong Hiep


Commentary 2016/52, 31 August 2016

During the 38th Singapore Lecture, Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang highlighted ASEAN’s importance in shaping regional responses to traditional as well as non-traditional security threats, claiming that it is critical to maintain a “multi-polar, multi-layered regional architecture in which ASEAN plays a central role”.

It is noteworthy that while praising ASEAN’s role in managing regional security issues, including the South China Sea disputes, Mr Quang also hinted at Vietnam’s frustration over ASEAN’s inability to effectively address the disputes due to the Association’s consensus principle.


“The Importance of Logistics Integration for Accelerating ASEAN Integration in the Digital Era”, a Commentary by Tham Siew Yean


Commentary 2016/51, 24 August 2016

It was reported in Today online, 23 August 2016, that the Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran noted that ASEAN integration has become even more important in the digital era.  In this regard, the rise of the digital consumer and the increasing digitalization of production in ASEAN calls for closer attention to the logistics sector as it is this sector that connects producers to consumers within a country and across borders. Enhancing the effectiveness of this sector requires four key considerations.


“Is Malaysia Really out of the Middle Income Trap?”, a Commentary by Francis E. Hutchinson


Commentary 2016/50, 23 August 2016

According to Datuk Seri Idris Jala, the CEO of Malaysia’s Performance Management and Delivery Unit (PEMANDU), Malaysia is no longer caught in the Middle Income Trap (The Star August 17, 2016). In 2015, the country’s Gross National Income (GNI) was US$ 10,570 per capita, only 15 percent below the World Bank’s threshold for high income status. This is a substantial improvement from six years ago, when Malaysia’s GNI was 33 percent below the high income threshold.