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Latest News and Updates

ISEAS Perspective: “ASEAN Trade in Services Agreement (ATISA): Advancing Services Liberalization for ASEAN?” by Tham Siew Yean
"The arrival of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015 and numerous assessments on the achievements of the AEC Blueprint that was used to guide the development of the AEC, led to negotiations to upgrade the services agreement from a framework agreement to a full-fledged agreement, namely the ASEAN Trade in Services Agreement (ATISA). Negotiations on the ATISA were concluded in November 2018. This article examines the potential of the ATISA to accelerate services liberalization in the region, and the key challenges involved.”

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The Straits Times: "ASEAN has spoken on the Indo-Pacific - now it must act on it" by Tang Siew Mun
"The Outlook is a declaration that ASEAN will be the master of its own destiny. While it is not resistant to working with external parties, it will always privilege ASEAN's interests above others.

ASEAN has found its voice. Now it must work harder on delivering a clear and consistent message. ASEAN should be working towards "taking positions", not sides."

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ISEAS Commentary: "ASEAN, Myanmar, and the Rohingya Issue" by Moe Thuzar
"Myanmar continues to shoulder the main responsibility for implementing the repatriation and ensuring safe and conducive conditions for lives and livelihoods of the Rohingya. But ASEAN’s long experience in dealing with Myanmar caution that no aspect of this issue can be satisfactorily resolved in the short-term."

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ISEAS Perspective: “ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific: Old Wine in New Bottle?” by Hoang Thi Ha
"At the initiative and urging of Indonesia, ASEAN had held internal discussions to formulate a common ASEAN position on this issue. As a result, the 34th ASEAN Summit in Bangkok in June 2019 adopted the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP). This article examines the content of the AOIP and analyses what it may mean for ASEAN and its member states.”

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South China Morning Post: "ASEAN found its voice with the Indo-Pacific concept. Now it has to use it or risk losing out" by Tang Siew Mun
"ASEAN has to rethink its game plan to maintain and solidify its centrality. It will require members to be proactive about creating and managing a new order, rather than fixate on their sole preoccupation of “regional cooperation”. Still, it is doubtful if members have the political will and drive to move away from the safe familiarity of ASEAN-led processes that centre almost exclusively on functional cooperation."

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ASC Seminar on 1 July 2019: “Indo-Pacific”: Opportunities and Challenges for ASEAN 
The ASEAN Leaders are expected to issue the “ASEAN Indo-Pacific Outlook” at the conclusion of the 34th ASEAN Summit in Bangkok, Thailand on 23 June 2019. Heretofore, ASEAN has neither endorsed nor rejected the “Indo-Pacific” while its member states have held rounds of consultation towards forging a regional consensus on this new concept. The concern over ASEAN being bypassed and its centrality undermined was at the forefront of ASEAN’s deliberations, as the proponents of the concept – Australia, India, Japan and most recently, the US – aspire towards a broader regional order, combining the vast expanse of diverse political entities from the Pacific to the Indian oceans. What should ASEAN do to avoid being sidelined in this new construct? Conversely, could the “Indo-Pacific” provide added impetus – and urgency – for ASEAN to live up to its potential as the bedrock of the new broader regional order? This seminar brings together three prominent Track 1.5 experts from Cambodia, Indonesia, and Vietnam to discuss ASEAN’s views and responses to the Indo-Pacific concept.

This seminar will be held on Monday, 1 July 2019 from 10.00am to 11.30am.

Click here for more information and to register.
The Straits Times: "The economics-security disconnect in America's Indo-Pacific strategy" by Hoang Thi Ha
"Despite US heightened awareness of the economics-security nexus, the economic component remains the strategy’s weakest link, especially in juxtaposition with the development-based narrative that China is promoting far and wide . . . US economic relations with Southeast Asia, although still having a strong foundation, have shown signs of saturation or slowing growth in contrast to a consistently upward trend in ASEAN-China economic engagement."

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Soha.vn: "Đối đầu Trung - Mỹ: "Cuộc đối thoại của người điếc" tiết lộ sóng ngầm dữ dội ở Biển Đông" by Hoang Thi Ha
"ASEAN’s traditional bridging role is under great pressure as the US and China are marching far down the road towards parting ways. It is uncertain whether its usual talking points – building an open and inclusive regional order, making no binary choice and being a friend to all – would be able to arrest the headwinds facing the region, especially the reallocation of the global supply chains as the world economy and technology are on the cusp of bifurcating into two separate systems. "

Click here to read the article (in Vietnamese).

English translation available here.
South China Morning Post: "In South China Sea, Asean has a choice: ‘Asian values’ or rule of law?" by Dr Tang Siew Mun and Hoang Thi Ha
"In negotiating the code of conduct, Asean must not become overly ambitious. The code is not meant to create a new body of law. Rather, it is a confidence-building mechanism to codify a set of dos and don’ts to minimise and prevent escalation of conflict. Asean should be vigilant against efforts to prejudice the legitimate interests of the international community on freedom of navigation at sea and overflight."

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In Memoriam: Ambassador Rodolfo C. Severino

I and the staff of ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute are deeply saddened by the news of Mr Rodolfo C. Severino Jr.’s passing. We express our heartfelt sympathy and condolences to the bereaved family. As the inaugural head of the ASEAN Studies Centre at ISEAS from 2008 to 2015, Mr Severino held a special place in the hearts and minds of researchers and staff at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute. His leadership and stellar contributions to ASEAN will be long remembered and sorely missed.

Choi Shing Kwok
Director, ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute

Channel NewsAsia: "Commentary: Myanmar on the cusp of opening up to mediation on Rakhine crisis" by Moe Thuzar
"With violent extremism, climate change, humanitarian emergencies and mass displacement now emerging as drivers of conflict, and posing a challenge to regional integration, the current political moment impels greater ASEAN-led efforts in preventive diplomacy, promotion of conflict resolution and peacebuilding, and recovery in member states still afflicted by conflict and tensions."

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The State of Southeast Asia: 2019 Survey Report
The ASEAN Studies Centre published “The State of Southeast Asia: 2019 Survey Report" on 29 January 2019, presenting the findings of a regionwide online survey conducted among policy, business, research, media and civil society communities in Southeast Asian countries on their views towards the state of the region amidst regional and global changes and uncertainties.

A summary of the survey findings was first published in ASEANFocus Issue 1/2019, accessible at this link.

The full survey report can be downloaded here.

Click here for a list of press reports referencing the survey findings.
Channel NewsAsia: "Commentary: The rebirth of the ASEAN miracle growth model" by Dr Sanchita Basu Das
”ASEAN’s efforts at strengthening cooperation both across the traditional and digital economies can help boost ASEAN’s competitiveness and growth in a way that is sustainable. And this new vision of enhanced connectivity will support greater trade, investment and innovation needed to ensure the region remains a vibrant and resilient region going forward.”

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ISEAS Perspective: "ASEAN-India Economic Relations: Low Base, Large Potential" by Dr Sanchita Basu Das
”ASEAN-India’s economic relations have significant room to grow in light of the global trade turmoil, services sector potential and people-to-people contacts. The domestic reforms undertaken by India in recent years reflect the country’s wish to build a modern and competitive economy that has the capacity to integrate better with regional and global economies going forward.”

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Associated Press: "Southeast Asian navies to hold drills with China next week"
“Strategically, it signals ASEAN’s current and future advances in security cooperation with China will not come at the expense of its good and long-standing ties with the U.S.” - Dr Tang Siew Mun

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Asian Correspondent: "Trump's lack of attention"
“US supremacy is a thing of the past... America is a big factor in the region, but it is far from the only factor. China is gaining traction, pouring money into ASEAN and supplying the majority of tourists to the region. And the largest investor of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is the European Union... There are many other players in the region. There’s no one single actor... You see multiple leaderships in multiple different areas. There’s no one single party that stands out.” - Dr Tang Siew Mun

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Free Malaysia Today: "Expert calls for code of conduct in South China Sea"
“I am not singling out anybody. But the moment you balance against someone, for instance China, ASEAN would have lost its rationale... ASEAN is about inclusiveness and being open. It should be a safe platform for powers, big and small, to trade, engage and be friends. It should not be a great power kind of politics.” - Dr Tang Siew Mun

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Channel NewsAsia: "A piece of Southeast Asia in a Singapore dish" by Cheryl Teh
"When it comes to food, ASEAN is ever present in our home as much as we have always been right at home in the ASEAN region. These culinary connections highlight the intimate ties that bind Singapore to and with ASEAN."

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The Business Times: "ASEAN Economic Community: Looking back to move forward" by Dr Sanchita Basu Das
"AEC will remain the main vehicle to entrench the regional supply-chains and to ensure countries' growth prospects. While there could be phases of uncertainty in the global economy, a more integrated ASEAN is inevitable to address vulnerabilities going into the future."

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ISEAS Perspective: 2018/32 "Do the Economic Ties between ASEAN and China Affect Their Strategic Partnership?" by Dr Sanchita Basu Das
"There are trust issues between the two. ASEAN countries worry that the growing trade deficit and the excessive dependence on China in trade and infrastructure financing will affect their domestic economy and foreign policy autonomy."

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ISEAS Commentary: "How ASEAN Supports the Korean Peninsula Peace Process" by Dr Tang Siew Mun
"Although ASEAN had consistently stood with the United Nations against DPRK’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, it also kept the channel of communication and dialogue with Pyongyang open through the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), which DPRK joined in 2000. Pyongyang’s participation in the ARF is even more important in the wake of the Trump-Kim Summit as it seeks to normalise ties with the region."

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ISEAS Commentary: "Consensus by Accommodation" by Hoang Thi Ha
"The alternative to consultation and consensus which is voting will end up with “winners” and “losers” within ASEAN. This will engender unhappiness and distrust among members. Certainty of outcome of voting can be counter-productive, ending with a divided ASEAN. Where the SCS issue is concerned, there is no quick fix or a perfect formula for ASEAN. ASEAN common position on the SCS must be attained by diligently bridging the gap and building consensus among its member states time and again."

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ISEAS Commentary: "Strategic Imperatives for India and Australia to Conclude RCEP Negotiation in 2018" by Dr Sanchita Basu Das
"So while ASEAN wants to have an all-inclusive 16 party RCEP, under the circumstances, it might have to explore other alternatives, including a smaller grouping. Prime Minister Lee hinted at this when he stated that there is no guarantee that ‘if there is no RCEP, no smaller groupings will emerge’."

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ISEAS Commentary: "The ASEAN Way on the South China Sea Speaks Volumes" by Dr Tang Siew Mun
"Far from being a weakness, the consensus approach to define ASEAN’s position which has stood the test of time ensures that all views are taken into account to serve the regional and collective interest while affirming ASEAN’s resilience. The consolidated South China Sea paragraph in the final outcome document exemplifies the true sense of ASEAN-ness in respecting each other’s views and upholding the spirit of compromise, while holding on to ASEAN’s principled position. "

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ISEAS Commentary: "ASEAN Smart Cities Network: Preparing For the Future" by Moe Thuzar
"ASEAN’s smart city network should thus be viewed beyond its encapsulation of the 2018 ASEAN theme: “Resilient and Innovative” It is one of the first steps by ASEAN to prepare for the future of regional cooperation in a global environment where digital technology informs and influences in the way people live, work, and conduct their daily transactions socially, economically, and professionally."

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ISEAS Commentary: "ASEAN Resilience: Continuity and Change" by Hoang Thi Ha
"More than ever before, ASEAN resilience is grounded in the cohesion among its member states, especially “vis-à-vis external divisive forces” as noted in the Vision – a very blunt statement by ASEAN standards. It is by no coincidence that ASEAN unity and centrality is the first principle in the Vision, a reminder that as the member states link their fates together through ASEAN, they should get their act together for a resilient ASEAN."

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ISEAS Commentary: "Seamless ASEAN Sky: Policymakers need to look beyond Obstacles" by Dr Sanchita Basu Das
"An integrated ASEAN airspace will enhance growth in many economic sectors. But ASEAN policymakers need to look beyond existing obstacles and undertake reforms. A Seamless ASEAN Sky can then contribute to overall economic integration and strengthen infrastructure, institutional and people-to-people connectivity in the region. "

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The Straits Times: "ASEAN businesses will do better without barriers to cross-border data flow" by Dr Sanchita Basu Das
"Indeed, if ASEAN members work together, there is much to be gained - a US$88 billion e-commerce market by 2025, according to one estimate by Google and Temasek Holdings. The embrace of opportunities offered by new technology - rather than erecting new barriers - will help ASEAN become more resilient against potential disruptive effects."

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ISEAS Perspective: "ASEAN in Australia's Indo-Pacific Outlook” by Hoang Thi Ha
"The ASEAN-Australia Special Summit on 17-18 March 2018 demonstrates Australia's support of ASEAN centrality in the defense of the region's rules-based order, and open and free trade... Australia's embrace of the Indo-Pacific and ASEAN's reluctance to do the same should not be a barrier to the strengthening of ASEAN-Australia ties, which are based on aligned interests and shared vulnerabilities in the face of shifting power balances and transnational challenges in the region."

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The Straits Times: "ASEAN 2018: More work to be done on labour migration" by Moe Thuzar
"The sheer fact that labour-sending and labour-receiving countries in ASEAN have managed to reach a compromise on a divisive issue after nearly eight years of negotiation is something of a relief."

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The Straits Times: ASEAN 2018: Reconciling consensus with new realities by Hoang Thi Ha
"A hallmark of the ASEAN Way, consensus guarantees that all member states, big or small, are equal in ASEAN's decision-making. It is credited for bringing ASEAN members together and keeping them united."

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ISEAS Commentary: "Australia in ASEAN: Vision or Fantasy?" by Hoang Thi Ha
To be an ASEAN member, one must agree to respect and abide by the ASEAN Charter, including the non-interference principle and decision-making by consensus. As a champion for liberal and democratic values, will Australia refrain from expressing its views on domestic politics of other ASEAN member states as it is doing today? Will Australia be comfortable with the ASEAN Way which Canberra and many Australian commentators have often lamented as “slow and ineffective”?

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