36th ASEAN Roundtable: Braving the Storms: ASEAN in Crisis Mode


Nearly twenty months into the Covid-19 pandemic, Southeast Asia is still in the throes of managing the spread of the new delta variant, the economic fallout from the pandemic and quickly evolving geo-political considerations. The political landscape in the region has quickly changed from one of relative stability to one where deep questions about the relevance of ASEAN as a grouping to its own members, the strength of its unity and the meaning of its centrality to its partners are being asked. On top of the public health and economic crises, ASEAN found itself having to deal with Myanmar when a military coup effectively removed the incumbent government from power. The US’ attention to the region, tied to the concept of the Indo-Pacific and the activities of the Quad, the new trilateral security arrangement AUKUS, and China’s application to the CPTPP promises to deliver a paradigm shift to this region’s political-security consideration. The theme of this year’s Roundtable is: Braving the Storms: ASEAN in Crisis Mode. The objective is to examine some of these pertinent issues in as holistic a manner as possible with a focus on equitable and inclusive recovery for the region.

The annual ASEAN Roundtable is a platform for leading scholars and commentators to examine key issues and challenges affecting ASEAN as a region and as an institution. The event is supported by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung.

Download the programme here.

Read the event highlight here.

This webinar will be delivered online entirely. You can join the webinar at the specified date and time using devices (computer, phone, or tablet) with internet connection.

Limited spaces only, register early to avoid disappointment.

To join the webinar,
1. Install the Zoom client onto your computer or download the app on your mobile device.
2. Set up a Zoom account, using the following link: https://zoom.us/signup
3. Click on the unique link in your email.

For the best experience, please mute your microphone. If you have questions for the speaker and discussants, please key in your questions via the Q&A, stating your name and affiliation. The moderator will field them to the speaker and the discussants during the Q&A session. 

DAY 1 Tuesday, 12 October 2021
9.00 am – 12.00 pm (Singapore time)

Session I: Promoting a More Inclusive and Equitable Economic Recovery in ASEAN

This session explores the possibility of promoting a more inclusive and equitable economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic in ASEAN. The pandemic has severely affected all ASEAN economies and caused a surge in the use of online platforms by businesses. The bottom for ASEAN’s economic slowdown appears to have been reached sometime during the second quarter of 2020, but the turnaround has been uneven across countries, sectors, and firm sizes. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) suffered greater losses in sales than large firms. Achieving more inclusive economic recovery in ASEAN requires deeper regional economic integration through seamless intra-regional flows of people, goods, and capital as well as greater participation of SMEs in digital trade.

Session II: Leveraging the COVID-19 Crisis for a Sustainable Future

The Covid-19 containment and mitigation measures had put ASEAN into an economic crisis. But the crisis has provided a window of opportunity for ASEAN to overhaul its economy to be more durable and resilient. Going back to its old playbook of environmentally destructive stimulus packages to drive new hard infrastructure and aid spending must be avoided. Instead, recovery policies must generate new strategies, tools and policy reforms that will ameliorate the impacts of future shocks, cushion unexpected business reversals, and empower just and inclusive societies in the event of future crises. The impetus to re-examine current spending, develop comprehensive policies for reskilling and upskilling of ASEAN’s workforce and circular economy’s role in a green recovery must be initiated. This session will explore three critical areas for ASEAN’s sustainable transformation: green recovery, reskilling of the workforce and circular economy. Catalysing the shifts in these areas is vital for ASEAN to transition to a more inclusive and resilient society.

Opening Remarks

Mr CHOI Shing Kwok
Director, ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute
Mr Christian ECHLE
Director, Regional Programme Political Dialogue Asia
Konrad Adenauer Stiftung

Keynote Message

Mr Alvin TAN
Minister of State
Ministry of Trade and Industry & Ministry of Culture, Community
and Youth

Panellists for Session I

Dr CHUA Hak Bin
Senior Economist
Maybank Kim Eng
Dr Sanchita Basu DAS
Associate Fellow, Regional Economic Studies Programme, ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute


Deputy Director, Asian Trade Centre
Dr Cassey LEE
Senior Fellow and Coordinator, Regional Economic Studies Programme, ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute

Panellists for Session II

Ms Jukhee HONG
Executive Director, CARI ASEAN Research and Advocacy
Dr Venkatachalam ANBUMOZHI
Senior Economist, Director of Research Strategy and Innovation, Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA)


Mr Seow Hiong GOH
Executive Director, Global Policy & Government Affairs, Asia Pacific, Cisco Systems
Ms LEE Sue-Ann
Senior Fellow, Regional Social and Cultural Studies Programme, ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute

DAY 2 Wednesday, 13 October 2021
9.00 am – 11.15 am (Singapore time)

Session III: Regional Political and Security Landscape

This session examines key events and developments that have shaken and reshaped the region’s political-security landscape in 2021. The February military coup d’etat in Myanmar and ASEAN’s ongoing struggle to nudge the country back to stability and democracy have posed serious challenges to ASEAN’s unity and centrality in its own neighbourhood. Is a reform of the ASEAN Way overdue and how should ASEAN reinvent itself in light of the Myanmar crisis?  On the external relations front, 2021 heralded a sense of hope that ASEAN-US relations will turn a new chapter with the Biden administration after four years of Trump’s lacklustre engagement. Yet, as “America is back” and “the era of US engagement with China is over”, what would it mean for ASEAN’s strategic positioning among the two great powers going forward? What does US commitment to Indo-Pacific mean for ASEAN?



Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue
Mr Min ZIN
Executive Director, Institute for Strategy and Policy (ISP)-Myanmar


Visiting Senior Fellow and Coordinator, Myanmar Studies Programme, ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute



Prof Alice BA
Professor of Political Science and International Relations, University of Delaware
Dr TAN See Seng
Research Adviser, The S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University


Dr William CHOONG
Senior Fellow, Regional Strategic and Political Studies Programme, ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute

Concluding Remarks

Sharon Seah
Ms Sharon SEAH
Senior Fellow
Coordinator, ASEAN Studies Centre, ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute