Overview of the 35th ASEAN Summit in Bangkok and Its Associated Meetings
Between November 2-3, the Heads of State/Government of ASEAN Member States gathered in Bangkok for the 35th ASEAN Summit. The theme of the summit was “Advancing Partnership for Sustainability,” and the Chairman’s Statement, released upon its conclusion, recognized the need to implement new and sustainable technologies to help ASEAN grow and adapt to Industry 4.0. The Chair of this year’s summit, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha of Thailand, also highlighted the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP), which was introduced initially at the 34th ASEAN Summit in June 2019. This strategy framework is meant to compliment other frameworks proposed by the United States, India, Japan, and Australia. Multiple summits were held on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit, including talks on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the East Asia Summit, individual ASEAN+1 summits, and the Indo-Pacific Business Forum.
On November 4, the 7th annual ASEAN-US Summit was held. The head of the U.S. delegation, White House National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, and the representatives of the ASEAN Member States reaffirmed their commitment to promoting peace and stability in the region as well a collaboration in cybersecurity and energy. The Chairman’s Statement highlights the importance of cooperation between the United States and ASEAN on infrastructure projects throughout the region, such as the proposed Blue Dot Network, which aims to promote high-quality standards for infrastructure development. The Chairman’s statement also mentions the US-ASEAN Business Council, highlighting the Council’s work in spearheading the ASEAN SME Academy to develop Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) and the US-ASEAN Internship Program. During the summit, O’Brien relayed an invitation from U.S. President Donald Trump for ASEAN Member State leaders to attend a U.S.-ASEAN “special summit” in the United States early next year. No other details on this summit have been released yet, and there has been no official response on summit attendance from ASEAN leaders. This year’s ASEAN-U.S. Summit saw the lowest level representation from the U.S since the summit began seven years ago. It was also the lowest level representation of any country attending the East Asia Summit. In accordance to diplomatic protocol, seven of the 10 ASEAN Member States sent their foreign ministers to the meeting instead. Only the Prime Ministers of Thailand (the current Chair of ASEAN), Vietnam (the next Chair of ASEAN), and Laos (which currently oversees ASEAN-U.S. relations) attended the meeting.
On November 4, all 10 Heads of State/Government for ASEAN Member States and Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand met for the 3rd RCEP Summit in Bangkok. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a free trade agreement between sixteen Asian nations that brings the existing five ASEAN+6 Free Trade Agreements into a single framework. If signed, RCEP would be the world’s largest free trade deal, as its members account for nearly a third of global domestic product and almost half of the world’s population. While most of the countries negotiating RCEP reportedly hoped that an agreement would be finalized during the 35th ASEAN Summit, India ultimately pulled out of the agreement over domestic economic concerns. With India’s withdrawal, all 16 members of RCEP adopted the “ASEAN-X” principle and agreed to move forward, releasing a joint statement saying that the remaining 15 members have concluded “text based” negotiations on twenty chapters of the agreement and are planning to sign the deal in 2020 in Vietnam. India could choose to join the trade deal later, and the joint statement added that “all RCEP participating countries will work together to resolve these outstanding issues in a mutually satisfactory way.” Exact details of RCEP, such as tariff rates and provisions on intellectual property and trade of services, have not been announced yet.
The 14th East Asia Summit took place in Bangkok on November 4 between the 10 ASEAN Member States, Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea, and the United States. The summit serves as an opportunity for the 18 nations to discuss political, security, and economic issues. The leaders in attendance expressed their continued commitment to the East Asia Summit, noting that this year was the 15th year of the gathering. Areas of cooperation that were discussed included energy, sustainability, connectivity, trade, and infrastructure. The Chairman’s Statement noted the multiple meetings surrounding energy cooperation and sustainability initiatives throughout the year, and the implementation of regional initiatives to tackle environmental concerns. A majority of the summit focused on defense and security issues. Issues surrounding the Korean Peninsula, Rohingya Crisis, and the South China Sea were all discussed, although language was for the most part vague.
Please see the forthcoming Analytical Update for more details on the 35th ASEAN Summit and its associated meetings.
Indo-Pacific Business Forum Held Alongside 14th East Asia Summit in Bangkok
Over 1,000 business and government officials attended the Indo-Pacific Business Forum (IPBF), which took place alongside the East Asia Summit and the ASEAN-U.S. Summit in Bangkok on November 4. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Thai Chamber of Commerce co-organized the event, in collaboration with the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Thailand, the U.S. ASEAN Business Council, and the U.S. and Royal Thai governments. The U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) sponsored the forum. U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross led a delegation of 40 U.S. businesses and high-level government officials to the forum, aiming to highlight the commitment of the United States to the Indo-Pacific. This commitment was echoed by the nearly 200 U.S. business executives that also attended the forum. In addition to Secretary Ross, representatives from the State Department, Export Import Bank (EXIM), USTDA, Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) attended the event. For information on the role that the Council played in supporting the IPBF, please see the Advocacy section below.
The theme of the event centered on the three pillars of the Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) strategy: energy, infrastructure and the digital economy. The United States has announced a several key initiatives to support these economic pillars in the region. Asia Enhancing Development and Growth through Energy (Asia EDGE) is a government wide effort to grow sustainable and secure energy markets in the region through developing partnerships, supporting innovation and investment enabling policy and regulatory frameworks, improving energy trading relationships, an expanding access to affordable and reliable energy. In terms of infrastructure, the United States has invested US$47.9 million in the Infrastructure Transaction and Assistance Network (ITAN) to bolster private sector investment in high quality infrastructure development and improve partner countries’ project planning and management capacity. Lastly, the Digital Connectivity and Cybersecurity Partnership (DCCP) provides technical assistance and capacity building support to strengthen the digital economy in the Indo-Pacific. The DCCP focuses on strengthening connectivity, cybersecurity, and smart cities by supporting investment in digital infrastructure, technology innovation, and public private partnerships. The DCCP also works to improve regulatory frameworks regarding information and communications technology initiatives.
In his keynote address to the forum, Secretary Ross outlined key figures on trade and investment between the United States and Southeast Asia. Multiple partnerships and business initiatives were announced during the forum to enhance regional cooperation. Secretary Ross also highlighted the FOIP’s economic pillars during the U.S. business development mission, which took place alongside the IPBF, that he led to Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam. The U.S. Government is looking for ways to support increased U.S. public and private sector investment to and from the region to not only take advantage of the growing market in Southeast Asia, but also to provide an alternative to China’s growing influence.
Japan promises Asean nations $3bn in development funding Bangkok Post 2nd Dec 2019
Japan has promised US$3 billion in investment and loans to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to boost development in the fast-growing region, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said Monday. The public and private sectors will make the contribution over three years from 2020 to 2022 as part of Japan's efforts to improve infrastructure, women's empowerment and protection of the natural environment, he said. The announcement follows Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's promise in early November to double investment and loans to the 10-nation group as he looks to garner support for his vision of a "free and open" Indo-Pacific as a counter to China's growing influence. In a speech in Tokyo, Motegi said the move showcases Japan's commitment to "free and fair economic development in Asean by providing economic options in all of its corners". "Economic cooperation is not just about paying for infrastructure construction. We always come in with a long-term vision to create local jobs, to build capacity, to nurture human resources that will become an engine for growth," he said at a symposium organized by the Japan Institute of International Affairs. Of the total, $1.2 billion will come from the government-funded Japan International Cooperation Agency.
Damage control required for ASEAN–US relations East Asia Forum 28th Nov 2019
The 35th ASEAN Summit and its related meetings ended on 5 November 2019 with stronger ASEAN solidarity and centrality. This was in part due to US President Donald Trump’s decision not to partake in the summitry and his high-handed manner in responding to the Southeast Asian diplomatic process. Before the White House issued an official statement on 30 October announcing that Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Robert O’Brien would be Trump’s ‘special envoy’ to the summits in Bangkok, the Thai ASEAN Chair had to do some urgent diplomatic footwork after news broke that neither Vice President Mike Pence nor Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would attend. Bangkok immediately informed the White House that there had never been such a low-ranking and non-cabinet member assigned to attend the summits. At the summits in Singapore last year, US Vice President Mike Pence replaced Trump at the main summit. The Thai Chair agreed that the appropriate response to O’Brien’s participation was reforming the ‘troika’ — the trio that would represent ASEAN at the summit with the United States. In the past, the troika consisted of the past, current and incoming ASEAN chairs. This time around, it consisted of the current and incoming ASEAN chairs and the country coordinator for ASEAN–US relations. This was the first time this formula had been used in the ASEAN–US Summit’s history. This was neither a snub nor an attempt at embarrassment. A senior Thai diplomat referred to the move as ‘a polite ASEAN way’ of responding to Washington’s ‘misguided breach of protocol and diplomatic etiquette’.
Germany, ASEAN strengthen ties with the stroke of a pen The Myanmar Times 8th Nov 2019
On November 2, Germany formally acceded to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC). For Germany this is an important step in strengthening our relations with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), an increasingly important community with growing regional and universal significance. The treaty embodies our common belief in multilateralism and regional cooperation, in dialogue and peaceful settlement of conflicts on the basis of common rules. ASEAN and Germany are committed to these principles. As the multilateral and rules-based international order is under pressure, it is important that the champions of these fundamental principles join hands and double their efforts against unilateralism, populism and a short-sighted focus on excessive national egoism. Germany has therefore initiated an alliance for multilateralism – a network of countries committed to preserving and further developing our rules-based order, strengthening cooperation, and bolstering the values of the United Nations. Germany, as the biggest member state of the European Union, therefore welcomes the invitation by ASEAN to join the growing number of parties to this important treaty. We recognise the resolve to open ASEAN’s regional cooperation to interested and like-minded players from outside the region. Germany’s accession to the treaty complements the ratification by the EU, which took place in 2012. We will strive to create synergies and complement each other in our support and cooperation with our partners in Southeast Asia.
Trump Invites ASEAN Leaders to the U.S. Time 4th Nov 2019
President Donald Trump has invited Southeast Asian leaders to a “special summit” in the United States early next year after skipping their ongoing annual summit in Thailand. Robert O’Brien, the national security adviser Trump sent in his stead, included the invitation in a letter from Trump that he read at a U.S.-ASEAN meeting on Monday on the sidelines of the summit of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Monday’s meeting with the U.S. would normally would be attended by presidents or prime ministers. In a pointed adherence to diplomatic protocol, seven of 10 Southeast Asian countries sent their foreign ministers instead. Only host Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-cha of Thailand and the prime ministers of Vietnam and Laos joined O’Brien and the foreign ministers sent by other countries. Last year, Trump sent Vice President Mike Pence to the annual ASEAN summit and related meetings. This year, both he and Pence were busy campaigning during the meetings, wrapping up Monday in the outskirts of Bangkok, Thailand’s capital. Trump’s absence from the meetings left plenty of room for China and other regional powers to raise their own profiles. In addition to O’Brien, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross also traveled to Bangkok with a trade mission that is touring the region. Despite the apparent downgrading of the ASEAN gathering by Trump, U.S. businesses and government were seeking to emphasize the American commitment to the region with a privately-led conference attended by about 1,000 business and government officials.
Việt Nam assumes ASEAN Chairmanship vietnamnews.vn 12th Nov 2019
Việt Nam was handed over ASEAN Chairmanship in 2020 from Thailand at the closing ceremony of 35th ASEAN Summit in Bangkok on Monday. In his acceptance speech, Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc congratulated Thailand on the successful organisation of ASEAN Summit, which will lay ground for Việt Nams’s ASEAN chairmanship in 2020. Over the past year, ASEAN has paid attention to resistance capacity, innovation and sustainability of the bloc, he said, highlighting the necessity of ASEAN to promote common interests among member states to preserve identity of member states.
PM attends plenary meeting of 35th ASEAN summit vietnamnews.vn 12th Nov 2019
Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc gathered with other top regional leaders at the 35th Association of the Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Bangkok today. The leaders spoke highly of progress in building the ASEAN Community and stressed that the bloc must maintain its role as the core force in pushing peace, stability, dialogue and co-operation in the region. They also agreed to continue enhancing ties between ASEAN and its partners, accelerating the sustainable development of the ASEAN, in line with objectives of the United Nations’ agenda 2030 on sustainable development goals.
China says RCEP economies committed to address India’s problems South China Morning Post 6th Nov 2019
China on Wednesday said the small number of issues standing in the way of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) could be resolved by the end of the year, adding member states were also ready to work with India to address outstanding issues. Fifteen nations from the Asia-Pacific region – the 10 Asean nations plus Japan, China, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand – agreed on the outline of the trade pact on Monday. Full details of RCEP, including tariff rates, have not yet been disclosed, but if signed early next year, the agreement will be the world’s largest free trade deal. India pulled out of the deal at the last minute amid concerns its economy could be flooded with cheap Chinese goods and farmers could be hurt by agricultural imports from Australia and New Zealand. A joint statement by all 16 countries, including India, said 15 economies had concluded “text-based negotiations for all 20 chapters and essentially all their issues of market access”, though it noted India had unresolved issues.
Explainer: World's biggest trade pact shapes up without India Reuters 5th Nov 2019
Defense & Security
Although India pulled out at the last minute, China and 14 other countries agreed in Bangkok this week on plans for what could become the world’s biggest trade agreement - the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). They aim to sign it next year to start freeing up trade between members that include the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. Exact details have yet to be released, but it will progressively lower tariffs across many areas. Its backers say that just as importantly it will let companies export the same product anywhere within the bloc without having to meet separate requirements and fill out separate paperwork for each country. It gives an incentive for companies to build supply chains within the region even if they export outside. The agreement also touches on services and on protecting intellectual property. RCEP is not seen as such a “high quality” trade agreement as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), among 11 Asia-Pacific countries, because it does not cover or harmonize as much. Tariffs are agreed between countries rather than across the board. For some countries, sensitive issues such as agriculture won’t be touched. It lacks provisions for liberalising state enterprises or protecting workers and the environment. Even once signed, implementation would take months to start and years to complete. The complexity makes precise calculations hard, economists say. The 15 participating countries make up nearly a third of the world’s people (it would have been nearly half with India). RCEP members account for nearly a third of global domestic product, with India’s departure making less of a difference.
Militants seek fake passports as Isis eyes Southeast Asia as new base South China Morning Post 28th Nov 2019
Malaysia has warned that the Islamic State (Isis) militant group may open up a new front and move its operations to Southeast Asia following the death last month of its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. “After losing much of its territory in Syria and Iraq, Daesh is looking for a new base. Malaysia does not rule out the possibility of Daesh shifting its operations to the Southeast Asia region,” Malaysian home affairs minister Muhyiddin Yassin told the 13th Asean Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime in Bangkok on Wednesday. He was referring to Isis by its Arabic acronym. “There are also growing threats from returning foreign terrorist fighters, online radicalisation and lone-wolf attacks,” Muhyiddin said. Last week the US Department of State’s top counterterrorism official Nathan Sales said that while Isis militants were not coming to Southeast Asia “in droves”, they were exporting terrorist tactics, techniques and procedures from the Middle East, including suicide bombings, which were a “very, very recent phenomenon” in the region. A former militant warned that foreign fighters were looking for forged or stolen passports to help them return home or enter other countries, as well as to evade authorities.
The ASEAN-U.S. Maritime Exercises Are More Important Than Ever The National Interest 27th Oct 2019
The inaugural ASEAN-U.S. maritime exercises (AUMX), coming off from last year’s naval exercises with China (ACMX), display a regional desire for inclusivity and balanced security ties with the two great powers. The succession is no coincidence and is indicative of intensifying major power contest playing out in defense diplomacy. Recent incidents in the South China Sea add a unique flavor to this year’s joint exercises.
What’s Next for ASEAN’s Regional Security Hotline? The Diplomat 24th Oct 2019
Last week, Southeast Asian countries held a series of meetings between themselves as well as partner countries on advancing a regional security hotline. The meetings highlighted the ongoing development of the initiative as part of a wider effort to promote confidence-building measures in the regional security landscape.
Indo-Pacific Conceptions in the Spotlight at China’s Xiangshan Forum The Diplomat 24th Oct 2019
This week, China held the latest iteration of the Xiangshan Forum, a regional security dialogue that Beijing first established back in 2006. While the deliberations themselves this year touched on a range of issues, among those of interest to the delegates and officials present was the state of conversation on the Indo-Pacific concept today and in the future.
The Growing Importance of ADMM Plus for South Korea The Diplomat 24th Oct 2019
South Korea has been supportive of the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM Plus), but has limited expectations for its ability to address the key security challenge facing the Korean Peninsula, namely the North Korean nuclear problem. The reasons for this include the lack of hard security cooperation, the focus on non-traditional security issues, and a preference for bilateral cooperation with the United States in dealing with North Korea. More generally, multilateral cooperation in the field of security and defense is not a priority for the Korean Ministry of National Defense. However, the ADMM Plus will become more important for South Korea for the following three reasons.
Moving ASEAN Toward Sustainable Defense Cooperation The Diplomat 24th Oct 2019
The 13th ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM), held on July 11, in Bangkok, Thailand, was a considerably quiet affair — there were no controversies, no public disagreements, and no last-minute decision to cancel a joint statement. Since the early 2010s, ASEAN-centred meetings have on occasion been venues where interstate tensions have manifested, although, to be sure, the ADMM itself has so far steered clear of these scenarios. Instead, it has been able to keep its focus on dialogue and practical cooperation toward managing regional security challenges.
Recent developments surrounding the South China Sea Washington Post 21st Oct 2019
A look at recent developments in the South China Sea, where China is pitted against smaller neighbors in multiple territorial disputes over islands, coral reefs and lagoons. The waters are a major shipping route for global commerce and are rich in fish and possible oil and gas reserves.
Asean leaders to discuss Rohingya, S. China Sea at summit Bangkok Post 21st Oct 2019
Southeast Asian leaders will discuss ways to facilitate the repatriation of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar at their upcoming summit in Bangkok, as well as the efforts to manage South China Sea disputes, according to an Asean document seen Monday. The draft of a chairman's statement to be issued after the Nov 2-3 summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations shows that the 10 leaders will reiterate their wish to see an enhanced Asean role in facilitating the voluntary repatriation process. They will underscore the importance of repatriating hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees from camps in Bangladesh in a "safe, secure and dignified manner" and addressing the root causes of the conflict to achieve a lasting solution.
South China Sea Code of Conduct seen part of Asean Summit talks | Bernadette D. Nicolas BusinessMirror 29th Oct 2019
PRESIDENT Duterte is expected to once again raise the need for a Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea in the 35th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit and Related Summits in Thailand this week. Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Junever M. Mahilum-West told Palace reporters on Monday that it is “unavoidable” the COC will be discussed by the world leaders in one of the meetings during the Asean Summit. However, Mahilum-West said they don’t expect this matter to be discussed extensively.
Malaysia's Petronas wins bid to supply LNG to Thailand's EGAT AF 3rd Dec 2019
Petronas LNG Ltd., a subsidiary of Malaysia’s state oil and gas company Petronas won a bid to supply 130,000 tonnes of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Thailand’s state-owned Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand.
Overreliance On Hydropower Is Causing A Crisis In Southeast Asia Yahoo Finance 27th Nov 2019
The swirling currents of the once mighty Mekong shrunk by drought and increasingly crippled by dams point towards an unprecedented crisis of water governance along the more than 4,900 kilometers of southeast Asia’s longest river.
Vietnam outpaces Indonesia in solar energy growth The Jakarta Post 5th Nov 2019
Attractive regulations have pushed an eightfold increase in solar energy adoption in Vietnam in the past two years, leaving Indonesia in the dust, even though the latter issued similar regulations six months earlier. While Indonesia’s installed solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity declined by 37 percent between 2017 and 2018, Vietnam’s capacity skyrocketed by 803 percent in the same period, according to BP’s latest annual Statistical Review of World Energy.
Egat talks power trade with Cambodia, Myanmar Bangkok Post 5th Nov 2019
The state-run Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) is planning to talk with power authorities in Cambodia and Myanmar to trade electricity from Thailand at a combined capacity of 500 megawatts. Patana Sangsriroujana, deputy governor for policy and planning, said Egat has been ordered by Energy Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong to talk with the two governments about future power trading.
World Bank sees rise in energy financing for LNG, RE projects Manila Bulletin Business 5th Nov 2019
The World Bank Group is anticipating that financing flow in energy projects will be largely dominated by new projects in the liquefied natural gas (LNG) and renewable energy (RE) sectors in the near- to longer-term investment horizons. “LNG will remain to have a lot of space in energy financing as gas demand increases in Asia. LNG will play a key role as the cost of gas comes down substantially, so I see LNG financing going up,” said Ranjit Lamech, regional director of the World Bank’s Infrastructure Department in East and the Pacific region, at the Singapore Energy Summit.
Asia Clean Energy Summit 2019 Scoop News 5th Nov 2019
Dr Koh Poh Koon, Senior Minister of State Ministry of Trade and Industry in Singapore, highlighted some of the key developments in Singapore supporting Singapore's transition towards a sustainable future at ACES 2019. Chairman of SEAS White Paper Committee Dr Sanjay Kuttan (fourth from left) and EDB Assistant Managing Director Mr Damian Chan (third from right) launched a carbon white paper that identifies key opportunities for Singapore to accelerate its decarbonisation efforts across the energy value and supply chain.
Food & Agriculture
Organic farming in Southeast Asia The ASEAN Post 25th Nov 2019
There is a growing interest in organic produce in Southeast Asia. In reaction to rapidly changing farming practices, organic farming is an alternative agricultural system that strives for sustainability, the enhancement of soil fertility and biological diversity. The farming method of rotating crops and applying mulch to empty fields can stabilise soils and improve water retention.
More land going to organic farming in Southeast Asia FreshFruitPortal.com 20th Nov 2019
The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) says that organic agriculture is "a holistic paradigm for sustaining life on earth", reports The Asean Post. With the potential to contribute to sustainable food security and improve livelihood in rural areas, organic farming in Asia shows a lot of potential. As a result, more land is going to organic farming as of late, according to the data from the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL). Land used for organic agriculture in Asia is almost 0.4%- or 6.1 million (m)- hectares of the entire agricultural industry.
Farmers to launch State-wide protests against RCEP The Hindu 1st Nov 2019
A group of independent farmer organisations under the aegis of the Karshika Purogamana Samiti (KPS) is gearing up to launch Statewide protests from Friday demanding that the Union government withdraw from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). “RCEP will be a big blow to farmers’ livelihoods and small industries in the country. At a time when farmers are faced with poor prices for their produce, RCEP will flood the market with cheap imports, which will further bring down the prices,” P.M. Joy, chairman, KPS, said. The farmers were already facing threat from imports of produce such as pepper, arecanut and rubber after the implementation of the low-duty structure under the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) trade agreement, SAFTA (South Asian Free Trade Area) and ISFTA (Indo-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement), Mr. Joy said adding that the RCEP would further increase the misery of the farming community in the country.
ASEAN members agree to boost agricultural cooperation The Scoop 15th Oct 2019
Health & Life Sciences
Brunei chaired the 41st ASEAN Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry Meeting (AMAF) today, aimed at forging greater cross-country cooperation in food, agriculture and forestry. Speaking at the opening of the meeting, Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism YB Dato Seri Setia Hj Ali Apong said the scope of AMAF had broadened significantly over the years, moving from cooperation in food production and supply to working together in food security and safety, as well as research and development. Under the new MoU, member states recognised the need to realign the food, agriculture, and forestry sectors to be compatible with ASEAN economic integration. They also agreed to boost the volume and quality of food production and enhance market access for small producers. The ministers acknowledged the sectors’ importance to the ASEAN economy, its impact on poverty alleviation and the need for capacity-building through transfer of technology. Earlier in the day, HRH Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Bilah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office, opened the meeting, stressing the need for ASEAN to improve food security as the world’s population is projected to grow to 10 billion by 2050.
Hong Leong Group and TPG to acquire 17 Columbia Asia hospitals for US$1.2b New Strait Times 22nd Oct 2019
Hong Leong Financial Group Bhd (HLFG) and private equity firm TPG inked a share purchase agreement to acquire Columbia Asia Hospitals in South East Asia for US$1.2 billion. In total, Hong Leong and TPG will acquire 17 Columbia Asia hospitals with a breakdown of 12 hospitals Malaysia, three hospitals in Indonesia and two hospitals and a clinic in Vietnam.
Seminar talks satellite-based dengue fever warning system VietnamPlus 18th Nov 2019
A regional seminar discussing the satellite-based dengue fever early warning system (D-MOSS) took place in Hanoi on November 18, 2019. Funded by the UK Space Agency's International Partnership Programme, the project is developed by a consortium led by HR Wallingford with partners such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Vietnamese Health Ministry. Running on website platform, D-MOSS could forecast dengue fever outbreak before six months and has been introduced to partners in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand. Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne and the world’s fastest-spreading disease caused by the virus. It is now present in over 150 countries, about 40 percent of the world’s population, and causes an estimated loss of around 9 billion USD each year. The Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific are the hardest-hit.
The rise of digital health in Asia MobiHealthNews 13th Nov 2019
Digital health is still in its infancy and one of the key lessons from the finance world that can be applied to digital health is the democratizing of data. What this means is to let people to decide what to do with their data, rather than (banks) over lording on how they should spend their money in the same way how healthcare organizations ‘overprotect’ healthcare data. Digital health represents a number of opportunities to democratize healthcare, to make access and price points to healthcare much better in APAC. Due to the penetration of smartphones and 4G networks in Asia, as well as of course, lowering the barriers to entry in terms of getting into healthcare and having a business model that works. We’re seeing innovation, not just technology but business around innovation starting to reach new frontier markets such as Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia, developing markets such as Indonesia, China and India. One of the challenges for digital healthcare startups in the ASEAN region is navigating the complex healthcare regulatory regimes across different countries. Speaking from the regulatory perspective in Singapore, Raymond Chua, Group Director, Health Regulation Group, Ministry of Health (MOH), explained that since digital health is rather new and evolving, the ASEAN countries have yet to come together and look at regulatory harmonization framework around digital health.
Leaders of East Asia Summit vow to work together to combat illegal drugs Manila Bulletin News 4th Nov 2019
Asia Pacific leaders have vowed to implement “concerted and sustained actions,” including intensified border patrol, to combat the spread of illegal drugs amid concerns about the “alarming” growth of the illicit trade. Eighteen Leaders of the East Asia Summit (EAS) have agreed to boost cooperation across judicial, law enforcement and health sectors to eliminate the global drug problem during their meeting in Thailand. The EAS group includes the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Russia, and the United States of America.
ASEAN members declare vaccine security, self-reliance as priority health agenda Manila Bulletin News 2nd Nov 2019
To help ensure healthy communities, the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has vowed to strengthen cooperation to attain vaccine security and self-reliance in the region. The Southeast Asian leaders agreed to work collectively to avoid vaccine shortage and improve the supply of affordable and quality vaccines at the national and region-wide levels to combat diseases and save lives.
ASEAN Blood Pressure Monitoring Devices Market was valued at $31.5 million in 2017 Markets Gazette 17th Oct 2019
KD Market Insights has published a new report on global ASEAN Blood Pressure Monitoring Devices Market analysis and forecast 2018-2025. The report comprises of ASEAN Blood Pressure Monitoring Devices Market size, Y-o-Y growth analysis, and market dynamics, including growth drivers, restraining factors, opportunities, and trends which are spearheading current nature and future status of the market. The ASEAN blood pressure monitoring devices market was valued at $31.5 million in 2017 and is expected to reach $53.3 million by 2025, registering a CAGR of 6.8% from 2018 to 2025. In terms of volume, the ambulatory BP monitors segment is expected to register the highest CAGR of 7.9% from 2018 to 2025.
Health on track: How Southeast Asian startups are taking healthcare into the digital age AsiaOne 14th Oct 2019
Wearables, 3D-printed prosthesis, genome-mapping - health tech has given the public and doctors an array of new tools to manage and improve the quality of life. While the average person is now more empowered to take care of themselves, medical institutions still play a large role in upkeeping public health standards. With the right predictive tools and management software, these institutions are starting to be able to provide more efficient and personalised care.
Dengue fever: Space-based early warning system spreads from Vietnam to six more South-East Asian countries Outbreak News Today 8th Oct 2019
The ground-breaking software, Dengue forecasting Model Satellite-based System, or D-MOSS for short, combines satellite data with weather forecasts and a hydrological model to predict dengue epidemics up to six months in advance. Key to controlling dengue is costly surveillance and control of the mosquitos that spread the disease, so better prediction helps hugely with the distribution of scarce resources. Forecasting also allows more targeted support to help local communities reduce their mosquitos through a range of simple measures such as improving water storage and waste management, as well as personal protection such as mosquito coils.
Southeast Asia Needs to Rethink Its Healthcare Services, Says An Asian VC Firm Entrepreneur 12th Nov 2019
Crowded and expensive medical facilities in Southeast Asia is a problem that can be most efficiently solved by technology, says Monk’s Hill Ventures, an investment firm in Southeast Asia, adding health-tech is a key investment opportunity in the region. Many wait for up to three hours to receive three minutes of care, the report said, adding for five of ASEAN’s most populous countries, there are an average of 0.8 doctors per 1,000 people, lower than the global average of 1.5 doctors per 1,000, and far behind Singapore’s 2.3 doctors per 1,000 people. To make a bad situation worse, healthcare costs in Southeast Asia are higher than in most other parts of the world - out of pocket costs account for 44 per cent of current health expenditure, versus the global average of 19 per cent. Healthcare technology, or healthtech, is becoming an up and coming sector in the region though, presenting a lot more investment opportunities for those looking to get into the space. In 2018, Southeast Asia saw just under half the 78 healthtech funding deals in Asia, excluding India and China, according to Monk’s Hill Ventures’ report, and these investments were mostly in AI-driven medical imaging companies, apps promoting a healthy lifestyle, and platforms that connect doctors and patients, remotely.
Trade, tech issues seen to shape Asean’s future BusinessMirror 7th Nov 2019
FIFTY-TWO years ago, the founding members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) fought the embers of communism across Asia. Today, Asean is confronting another “FIRe,” the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution. The FIRe is being seen as a tool that Asean needs to comprehend, brace for and harmonize if its member-states want a stronger regional economic integration via the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). Former Tariff Commissioner George N. Manzano told the BusinessMirror that forging the RCEP at the time that Asean member-countries are preparing for the FIRe is a step in the right direction.
ASEAN ministers discuss regional ICT development Borneo Bulletin Online 5th Nov 2019
Minister of Transport and Infocommunications Dato Seri Setia Awang Abdul Mutalib bin Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Setia Dato Paduka Haji Mohammad Yusof attended the 19 ASEAN Telecommunications and IT Ministers Meeting (19 TELMIN) and its related meetings in Vientiane, Lao PDR from October 24-25. Dato Seri Setia Awang Abdul Mutalib led a delegation of senior officials from the Ministry of Transport and Infocommunications (MTIC) and the Authority for Info-communications Technology Industry of Brunei Darussalam (AITI). The annual meeting gathers ICT/Digital Ministers from ASEAN member states to discuss regional ICT development and decide on the direction of ICT cooperation within ASEAN and with the dialogue partners.
Getting Digital IDs Right in Southeast Asia The Diplomat 12th Oct 2019
Digital identification, or “digital ID,” can provide access to a wealth of services from banking and government benefits to education and healthcare. But, only five Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries – Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand – have fully digitized their foundational identity systems. Within these countries, there are varying implementation agendas. As they and the rest of ASEAN begin implementing digital IDs, it’s crucial that they get it right to realize its full potential. McKinsey Global Institute research has found that carefully designed digital IDs can add 6 percent growth to an emerging economy’s GDP in 2030 and 3 percent to an advanced economy’s GDP. It is also one of the foundations of a digital economy. More importantly, a digital ID is more than just having an online presence – they empower people. Digital IDs implemented by governments allow citizens to contribute meaningfully across economic, political, and social dimensions. Digital IDs are also fast becoming the cornerstone of digital societies – an important component to realize ASEANs ambition to become an integrated digital economy.
How Chinese money is driving Southeast Asia’s start-up scene South China Morning Post 6th Oct 2019
Chinese investment in Southeast Asian start-ups ballooned to US$1.78 billion in the first seven months of this year, an eightfold increase over the same period in 2018, according to fintech firm Refinitiv. The saturation of the tech scene in China and the opportunities offered by Southeast Asia’s maturing mobile economy are two of the factors driving the influx of Chinese money, analysts say. The region’s unicorns – firms valued at US$1 billion or more – and aspiring unicorns have been among the chief beneficiaries. In July, Gobi Partners, in collaboration with AirAsia’s cargo and logistics arm Teleport, co-invested US$10.6 million in Malaysia’s EasyParcel. In May, Chinese social network YY acquired Singapore’s live-streaming platform Bigo in a US$1.45 billion deal. Other deals in recent years saw Chinese tech giant Alibaba – the owner of the South China Morning Post – buy control of Southeast Asian e-commerce firm Lazada Group, Tencent invest in Singapore-listed company Sea and JD.com lead a US$19 million investment in Thai fashion brand Pomelo. Meanwhile, in what appears to be a push to penetrate the regional market, two of China’s biggest venture capital firms – Qiming Ventures and GGV – have opened offices in Singapore. Indonesia’s e-commerce companies have also been bagging funds from Chinese tech giants. Last December, Tokopedia secured funding of US$1.1 billion from Alibaba and Japan’s SoftBank, while Bukalapak considers Ant Financial as one of its backers.
The Southeast Asia data center construction market is expected to reach values of approximately $2 billion by 2024 Yahoo Finance 19th Nov 2019
Reportlinker.com announces the release of the report "Data Center Construction Market in Southeast Asia - Industry Outlook and Forecast 2019-2024" - https://www.reportlinker.com/p05758036/?utm_source=GNW The Southeast Asia data center construction market is driven by increasing deployments across emerging regions such as the Philippines, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos. The adoption of water-based cooling systems and rack size of over 45U will lead to innovations in the Southeast Asia data center construction market. The market research report provides in-depth market analysis and segmental analysis of the Southeast Asia data center construction market by product, distribution channel, material, and geography.
South Korea seeks to expand network in Southeast Asia Flightglobal.com 20th Nov 2019
It is also in talks to expand its network in Northern Asia region, says the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MOLIT) in a statement. The ministry notes that flights to Japan declined by 21.2% year-on-year from July to October, and that local carriers have channelled capacity to China, Southeast Asia, and Oceania.
US backs infrastructure scheme to rival China’s Belt and Road Financial Times 4th Nov 2019
The US is aiming to capitalise on growing unease in Asia about the risks and costs of China’s Belt and Road Initiative by unveiling a certification scheme that will set international standards for big infrastructure projects. The American-led Blue Dot Network will, its organisers said on Monday, vet and certify projects to promote “market-driven, transparent, and financially sustainable” infrastructure development in Asia and around the world. The Blue Dot Network — named after the astronomer Carl Sagan’s observation that Earth looked like a “pale blue dot” when viewed from space — will initially be led by the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, in co-operation with the Japan Bank for International Cooperation and Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The plan was announced by OPIC, the US agency that promotes investment in emerging markets, at an American-sponsored Indo-Pacific Business Forum held alongside the south-east Asian regional grouping Asean’s annual leaders’ summit. The organisers will form a steering committee to develop the plan, inviting other countries, private companies and civil society groups to join. The initiative follows criticism that some BRI projects — for example in Sri Lanka,Myanmar, and Laos — create debt traps for beneficiary countries or fail to meet international standards on transparency, local workers’ rights and environmental standards. However, it is unclear how effective the Washington-backed initiative will be at holding back unsustainable BRI developments. Blue Dot Network organisers claim the initiative will serve as a catalyst for private finance, but it will have no lending function of its own. BRI, in contrast, is underwritten by billions of dollars from Chinese state-owned banks and companies.
America's EXIM Bank to expand trade insurance tie-ups with Japan Nikkei Asian Review 2nd Nov 2019
The U.S. and Japanese governments plan to expand trade insurance they jointly offer on energy, aircraft and other deals to better compete with Chinese companies for big projects in Asia, Nikkei has learned. Washington and Tokyo will target Japanese-led projects with U.S. participation, with the American side taking on some of the risk of those deals. Japan's Nippon Export and Investment Insurance and the Export-Import Bank of the United States, both state-sponsored bodies, are scheduled to sign an agreement Monday. The Japanese and U.S. governments help mitigate risks exporters face from such threats as armed conflicts, natural disasters and corporate bankruptcies at export destinations, thereby easing private sector lending for such deals. The new arrangement will cover export deals that Japanese companies lead, such as liquefied natural gas plants and the mid-sized passenger plane SpaceJet developed by Mitsubishi Aircraft. The amount of coverage per deal is expected to range from several hundred million dollars to more than $1 billion. Until now, the U.S. only jointly offered trade insurance on American-led deals, but the projects that are seeing high demand in the Indo-Pacific region are mostly related to infrastructure development and energy facilities that Japanese companies excel at. Consequently, by adding Japan-led projects to the mix of deals that the U.S. reinsures, the partners aim to expand funding for them and seal more contracts. According to the Asian Development Bank, the demand for infrastructure in Asia will total about $26 trillion between 2016 and 2030. The strengthening of cooperation between the Japanese and U.S. trade insurers was looked into at the request of the U.S. side. As China aggressively expands investment in the region under its Belt and Road policy, Washington appears to be seeking a counterweight.
As ASEAN Enters an Infrastructure Boom, Geopolitical and Economic Risks Abound Brink 28th Oct 2019
Southeast Asia is witnessing an infrastructure boom, with major projects approved in Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. In several cases, these have been facilitated through loans and other assistance provided by Japan and China.
Is Japan's rail diplomacy on the right track in S.E. Asia? The Japan Times 28th Oct 2019
The recent development of Japan’s high-speed rail projects in Southeast Asia may suggest the shinkansen is leaving the center of its railway diplomacy. Beijing began to export its own HSR systems overseas under the Belt and Road initiative in the last decade. Meanwhile, the Abe administration since 2012 has promoted the shinkansen overseas as a countermeasure to balance China’s geopolitical influence. Prior to the 2010s, Japan only exported the shinkansen once, to Taiwan in 2007. For its proponents, the shinkansen’s safety record, high efficiency, and other excellent performance measures justify its higher cost compared with the Chinese HSR.
‘Asean’s manufacturing sector deterioration softened last month’ The Edge Markets 3rd Dec 2019
While operating conditions continued to worsen in November for the sixth-straight month at Asean manufacturing firms, the sector’s fall in production and incoming new business has slowed compared with October, said IHS Markit. According to its latest Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) data, the sector’s headline index figures rose to 49.2 in November from 48.5 in October, weighed down by new business and employment. “Notably, the deterioration in operating conditions was the softest since July, with both production and incoming new business falling at softer rates than those seen in October,” it said. Singapore saw the sharpest decline out of the seven countries monitored, at 47.7 in the PMI; however, the headline index for the republic was at the highest for eight months and showed only a moderate contraction overall. Meanwhile, Indonesia’s headline figure (48.2) improved slightly from October but nonetheless indicated a fifth consecutive deterioration in operating conditions and was moderate overall. Thailand’s headline index (49.3) was the lowest for just over a year, signalling a marginal deterioration in the health of the Thai manufacturing sector. Malaysia’s PMI for November was 49.5, showing a slowdown in the sector’s declining operating conditions, which have been observed since October last year. On the other hand, IHS Markit highlighted Myanmar as the best-performing country. The headline index (52.7) indicated a solid improvement in operating conditions and extended the current sequence of growth to 13 months. The Philippines also reported an improvement with the headline figure of 51.4, the lowest since July amid its softening growth of output and new orders. It noted that Vietnam was the only other country to report an improvement in the health of the manufacturing sector in November. Meanwhile, in terms of prices, inflationary pressures remained historically subdued.
Trade War: Why manufacturers are not rushing into India, Indonesia The Economic Times 7th Oct 2019
Travel & Tourism
Out of 56 companies that relocated their production out of China between April 2018 and August 2019, only three went to India and two to Indonesia. This was the finding of a study by Nomura, a Japanese financial group.Out of the 56 firms, 26 relocated to Vietnam, 11 went to Taiwan and eight to Thailand.
'Amazing Asean' is next chapter in tourism success story Bangkok Post 31st Oct 2019
Tourism in Southeast Asia remains healthy despite the global economic slowdown, but this regional success story will only continue if Asean countries ramp up cooperation, experts say. Morragotwong Phumplab, assistant professor at Thammasat University's Faculty of Liberal Arts, said the tourism sector in every Asean country boasts unique qualities that lure international visitors to the region. But rather than collaborating on items such as joint Asean tour packages for top regional destinations, countries prefer to promote their own domestic attractions. Tourism in the region has been boosted by the growing spending power of China's middle class. Yet, China's rising geopolitical influence is also a key challenge for Asean, outweighing the effects of the global economic slump.
Southeast Asia a “melting pot of trends” in online travel PhocusWire 30th Oct 2019
The middle class is growing very fast, 90% of the region’s 360 million internet users are connecting through mobile devices, brands already in travel are expanding their offerings and other e-commerce entities are forging partnerships to sell travel as well. These were some of the topics buzzing at WebinTravel’s Singapore conference earlier this month, as industry leaders gathered to discuss the fast pace of change across the region.
Travellers can now book Grab on Booking.com’s app – and IMs to drivers will be translated to the local language Business Insider Singapore 29th Oct 2019
Have you ever been on a foreign cab ride where you feel like your driver is ripping you off? Well, you might not have to worry about that if you could hail a ride without having to worry about the language barrier. A partnership between ride-hailing service Grab and Booking.com will allow travellers to book local rides without worrying about language barriers or about getting ripped off. Announced on Tuesday (Oct 29) morning, Booking.com app users can now book Grab rides in Singapore without having to create a new account or downloading the Grab app.
Airports, tourism and traffic: KL, Singapore, Jakarta, and Manila BusinessWorld 28th Oct 2019
The UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) published its annual Tourism Highlights and the good news about the Philippines is that international arrivals have reached more than 7 million in 2018. The bad news is that this is still small compared to what many of our neighbors in the region get: less than one-half of Vietnam’s, less than one-third of Malaysia’s, less than one-fifth of Thailand’s, and Cambodia might even overtake us in a few years.
Dams destroy the Mekong and damage tourism TTR Weekly 11th Oct 2019
Tourism is billed as a lifesaver that brings countless job opportunities and lifts towns and communities out of the poverty trap. The river lends its name to a very successful marketing effort funded by the six countries Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. Optimists in tourism and there are many, suggest Mekong Tourism is on the cusp of success. Yet there is the clear and present danger that this iconic river flowing from the Himalayan ranges in China to Vietnam’s rice bowl delta on the South China Sea will be transformed into a series of artificial stepped lakes as governments build more dams.
New travel tech show launches in 2020 TTR Weekly 9th Oct 2019
Messe Berlin (Singapore) will host a brand new show Travel Tech Asia 2020 in Singapore, 21 to 23 October 2020. Travel Tech Asia will bring together a fresh set of buyer participants, identified as ‘tech buyers’. They are mainly made up of top executives in distribution, sales and marketing, e-commerce and IT from hotels, travel agencies, airlines, tours and activities. Conference speakers will share information on emerging technologies, trends, ideas and applicable case studies that will set the stage for new possibilities in travel.