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Weekly Summary

By David Swartzentruber
AseanAffairs 19 June 2010

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Asean Affairs writer, Paul Ebeling Jnr. Ended this week with this noteworthy report on Asean-Chinese trade: “In the first five months of 2010, total bilateral trade between China and Asean nations reached US$112 billion, an increase of about 58 percent, signaling that Asean nations have collectively surpassed Japan to become China's third largest trading partner.

China's Deputy Secretary-General of China-ASEAN Business Council Xu Ningning said the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area has greatly promoted bilateral economic, trade and investment cooperation in recent years. On Jan. 1 of this year, the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area went into full swing and the implementation of the zero-tariff policy greatly promoted bilateral trade and cooperation in various fields.

When China and ASEAN established the China-ASEAN Free Trade Zone in 2001, China's trade with ASEAN increased rapidly and has more than quadrupled from US$41.6B in 2001 to US$213B in 2009.

Despite the global financial crisis, in 2009, trade between China and ASEAN fell by 7.8 percent from the previous year, but it was still lower than China's 13.9 percent overall decline in foreign trade

By 2009, investment between China and ASEAN countries reached more than US$60B, of which Asean investment in China totaled about US$500B, and the top five Asean investors in China are Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines. Singapore is China's third largest foreign investor.”

Other developments this week:

The Thai government proposed buying Thaicom Plc. from Singapore-based Temasek Holdings to avoid future conflicts stemming from the use of the company's satellites to air anti-government broadcasts, however, the price tag and legal obstacles may bock a deal.

The man widely expected to become China's next leader , Vice-President Xi Jinping , stopped in Laos to boost his country's fast-growing ties with Laos, As Beijing competes with Vietnam for influence in the small but resource-rich nation, observers said.

Asian and Middle East countries are predicted to dominate investment in the agricultural sector in Indonesia in the future, Indonesian Deputy Agriculture Minister Bayu Krisnamurthi said.

The Export-Import Bank of the United States agreed to provide a US$500 million financing facility to boost sales of US equipment and services to Vietnam for high-priority infrastructure projects.

A total of 86.6 percent of Thai economists recently surveyed agreed the economic growth rate for 2010 would be about 4.3 percent, despite the impact of recent political unrest and a financial crisis in Europe, according to the Research Centre at Bangkok University.

Foreign militants are using mainly Muslim Malaysia as a base to beef up their violent struggle and recruit new members, a according to senior minister Hishammuddin Hussein. He confirmed that there were Islamic and non-Islamic militant groups operating in the country.

The issuance of the yearly U.S. State Department “Report on Human Trafficking” brought widespread backlash from Asean member states, Singapore and Vietnam, while the Philippines acknowledged it needed to do more in the area.

The Indonesian government will issue a regulation to allow foreigners to possess property in Indonesia and ease investment restrictions as a way to absorb an annual US$6 billion from international investors.

A World Bank symposium in South Korea said that microfinancing in emerging economies would play a greater role, especially in light of the recent worldwide economic crisis. Corruption rests at the roots of Thailand's current political problems and public resentment about social and economic gaps within the country, said the Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

Reserved optimism prevailed among Philippine consumers after the government raised this year’s economic targets on hopes of quicker household spending. Philippine economic managers on Tuesday revised the country’s growth target upwards following the better-than-expected expansion in the first quarter of this year.

China has recently agreed to finance the construction of two bridges across the Mekong River to close the last remaining physical gaps on the north-south roadway connecting China with Thailand through Laos.

Thailand's exports may grow by as much as 18 percent this year after May foreign sales grew at the fastest pace in 22 months.


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