“Arbitral Tribunal Award Represents Legal Victory for Philippines, Massive Defeat for China”, a Commentary by Ian Storey


Commentary 2016/29, 13 July 2016

On 12 July the Arbitral Tribunal based at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague issued its final ruling in the Philippines versus China case. The case, concerning maritime rights and entitlements in the South China Sea, was unilaterally submitted by the Philippines to the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea in January 2013. China argued that the Tribunal did not have jurisdiction to hear the case and refused to participate in the legal proceedings.


“Brexit Scuttles an ASEAN-EU FTA”, a Commentary by Sanchita Basu Das


Commentary 2016/28, 27 June 2016

Brexit dims chances for an ASEAN-EU FTA any time soon. The EU and ASEAN free trade talks first launched in 2007 was abandoned after two years and seven rounds. Differences over the scope and depth of the trade pact among 38 countries was compounded by the EU apprehensions about including Myanmar, an ASEAN member, then under five decades of military rule. Instead the EU chose to sign bilateral FTAs with individual ASEAN members, expecting them to play the role of ‘building blocks’ for an ASEAN-EU FTA. It signed trade accords with Singapore in 2012 and Vietnam in 2015 and was in the process to start negotiation with the Philippines, the rising star of Southeast Asia.


“Assessing the Impact of Brexit for ASEAN-EU and ASEAN-UK Relations”, a Commentary by Tang Siew Mun


Commentary 2016/27, 24 June 2016

In a move that would reverberate in the British Isles and around the world, the British electorate voted today to “leave” the European Union (EU) in what was billed as one of UK’s most significant political events in a generation. The BBC reported that the “leave” campaign garnered 52% of the votes against a turnout of 72.2%, signalling the beginning of the end of UK’s flirtation with European integration. Although the results of the referendum is not legally binding, Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to honour the results, and has even resigned to allow a new Prime Minister to lead the process of the UK exiting the EU. The new Prime Minister would kick-start the process of UK’s withdrawal by triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty through a formal notification to the European Council. As this process is being played out in Brussels and London, what does Brexit mean for ASEAN-EU and ASEAN-UK relations?


“Between the Norm and the Exception: The ASEAN Way with Joint Statements”, a Commentary by Moe Thuzar


Commentary 2016/26, 23 June 2016

ASEAN has recently been in the news, when a joint statement by ASEAN Foreign Ministers was retracted within hours of its issuance. The carefully crafted and negotiated statement on the Special ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers Meeting by ASEAN reflected its collective concern on tensions over territorial claims in the South China Sea, and its adverse impact on ASEAN-China relations. Its retraction was attributed to weak links in ASEAN’s regional chain and was compared to the Phnom Penh failure in 2012 to achieve consensus on the same topic. Whether bureaucratic misstep or deviation from the norm, two main points in the timeline of events merit further consideration.


“Covering the Confusion: Southeast Asian Newspapers’ take on the Special ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting”, a Commentary by Jason Salim


Commentary 2016/25, 22 June 2016

The Special ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting might have concluded a week ago, but its aftershocks continue to rattle ASEAN as it reassesses its strategy in handling the South China Sea (SCS) dispute. If ASEAN member states had any conflicting understanding of China’s growing assertiveness in bulldozing its national agenda on the region, the two-day meeting and the confusion surrounding the issuance and eventual retraction of the “media statement” almost certainly exacerbated those divides.


“Concluding RCEP Negotiations is an Imperative for ASEAN, but China’s and India’s Cooperation is Vital”, a Commentary by Sanchita Basu Das


Commentary 2016/24, 21 June 2016

The thirteenth round of negotiation for Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) was held in Auckland, New Zealand, from June 12 to 18. Negotiations have been underway for more than three years. Now more than ever, the ASEAN states and the other six parties need to conclude the negotiations.


“Malaysia’s Opposition Needs a Miracle—and Fast”, by Ooi Kee Beng


Commentary 2016/23, 20 June 2016 

The Barisan Nasional (BN) led by UMNO beat the opposition parties in the Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar parliamentary by-elections held on 18 June by huge margins. This was in itself not unexpected.

While comparisons between by-elections results and general election results can often misleading, no one doubts that the BN’s core supporters stayed loyal despite the scandals and splits that plagued the coalition over the past two years. This is disheartening for the opposition parties and their newly styled coalition Pakatan Harapan. They should not be surprised though, given how they have been rocked by splits and accusations of wrongdoings in recent months.



“Fallout from the ASEAN-China Special Foreign Ministers’ Meeting”, by Tang Siew Mun


Commentary 2016/22, 16 June 2016

The fault lines between ASEAN and China was exposed in the Special ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Kunming which drew to an “eventful” conclusion yesterday. Even before the meeting started, ominous signs were looming as stakeholders started asking questions over the rationale for the meeting. Some quarters in ASEAN were uneasy over the possibility that China will use the meeting to paper over heightened concerns and anxieties in the South China Sea (SCS). Nevertheless, the Malaysian proposed meeting was convened in Kunming on 14 June 2016.


“Ratification of TPP by the US Congress is in the Best Interest of all Participating Members”, by Sanchita Basu Das


Commentary 2016/21, 14 June 2016

In a recent article in Bloomberg (Singapore Urges U.S. Against Tweaking Big Pacific Trade Pact; dated 12 June 2016), there is mention of Singapore’s role as an interlocutor for the US to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement in its current form. Ratifying the agreement becomes a pertinent issue as none of the US Presidential candidates – Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton – are supporting the TPP. Worse, they are sending signals of lack of support for the trade deal. Domestic interest groups, especially from the auto sector and labour activists, have expressed their unhappiness over the trade pact.


“Myanmar Forum 2016: Key Takeaways”, by Moe Thuzar


Commentary 2016/20, 10 June 2016

The Myanmar Forum 2016 in Singapore on 20 May 2016, convened by ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute and University of Michigan’s Centre for Southeast Asian Studies, highlighted important issues for those following developments in Myanmar.  Changes in Myanmar under the “civilianised” administration of the Union Solidarity Development Party (USDP) now continue under the National League for Democracy (NLD) government, which received a resounding mandate in the November 2015 elections. Hope and expectations are driving the current change trajectory.  The Forum examined the imperatives for the NLD government’s attention in the initial months of the administration, the interests that drive the need to transform and the individuals and institutions that influence the process.