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Cashing in on the Confidence Crisis.
Your cover story (Jul-Aug ’09) may sound upbeat by showing what the retail players in Southeast Asia are trying to do to lure the wary consumer, but across Asean and much of the world, the crisis of confidence in markets and governments hold sway. However much leaders across the world try and show a brave face while making lofty announcements that the worst is over and they have got a grip on the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression, the ordinary consumer and people know who to believe-they just have to look around and see the depressed look on faces everywhere. “It’s a difficult and arguably fruitless exercise to try and predict when different economies will begin to recover” as remarked by Sir Terry Leah, CEO TESCO PLC in your cover story.

Patrick Wong
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

ASEAN-EU FTA- the way forward !
Europe and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) opened free trade negotiations in 2007 but little progress has been made. Leaders of the EU hope breakthroughs with individual countries could lead the way to a broader deal.

“We have wondered whether or not it’s now time for us to, in a sense, take forward individual free trade agreement discussions with a small group of Asean countries
as a precursor to a regional deal. It’s quite clear that we are not going to get significant progress regionally within the Asean bloc. These markets are opening up in a
significant way, but there are still taxes and tariffs and all sorts of non-tariff barriers to trade in this region. Similarly, Asean countries have their issues with the EU,”
said one of the leaders.

However, in the face of the global slowdown it makes sense to forge deeper trade ties with countries with growing economies in Asia. Imagine a market of 3b people from Bombay-Bangkok-Beijing-Berlin. Doing business the Asean/Asian way is something we as Europeans must learn and the only way to do that is to learn and get a better understanding by engaging with each other sincerely and not in a superficial way which many of the forums and events tend to promote. It’s a continuous process rather than a one off touch and go approach.

Further more I have discovered in my personal travels through out the Asian region that we tend to compare or judge Asia and Asian ways from a fixed, pre-determined frame of reference, be that the German or European standpoints. Needless to say that approach can only throw up predictable results and that is create zero understanding. I’m a subscriber to your publications and I think ASEAN AFFAIRS is doing a great service by connecting people in the two continents through news, views and analysis in both print, online and events.

Maximilian Rosler
Frankfurt, Germany.

Outsourcing Myths and PROTECTIONISM!
Southeast Asia-the outsourcing hotspot according to columnist Harish Nim (Asean Tech, Jul-Aug’09) takes the blame every time there is slight dip in the acceleration of output, jobs or incomes. According to the recent McKinsey study, for every dollar spent on a business process that is outsourced to India, the US economy gains at least $1.12. When economies go into free fall-protectionism is a natural reaction.
Countries like India and SE Asia developed industries around outsourcing which was nothing but cheap labor or “Cyber Coolies” as described by somebody in India. These so called IT titans created nothing innovative or cutting edge, all they did was provide cheap labor to replace the worker in the developed world. They should have known price advantage can only be short term. Thousands of workers in the IT and ITES industry in Asia have been laid off once the credit crisis started. Instead of blaming the governments in US and the developed world of protectionism, Asia should realize that these industries were created in the first place in the west by dint of innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship while Asia focused on cheap labor. If Asia wants to play a meaningful role in having its rightful share of influence in the world, then its time that it develops its human capital instead of treating it as cheap.

Mark Stone
New York

The Dance of the Pariahs !
The voyage of the North Korean ship Kang Nam I to Myanmar (“Beyond Asean” Jul-Aug’09) made for headline news and unnerved Asean. North Korea’s bringing the nuclear game to the doorstep of SE Asia perhaps may be the wake up call for the world powers. That the rogue regime in Myanmar deserves equal condemnation as much as N Korea does even though Myanmar has yet to pose a nuclear threat.
The two pariah states have come a long way since Myanmar broke off diplomatic relations in 1983, after North Korean agents bombed the Martyr’s mausoleum in Yangon in an attempt to assassinate the visiting South Korean President, Chun Doo- Hwan. Now their rapport is creating a security quandary for Asean and the US. The military regime has been in power for decades and all the sanctions and rebukes of the west has been ineffective and toothless.
Perhaps the west will finally wake up when the tyrannical regime turns nuclear, but then it may have been already too late. The junta has reportedly stashed billions of dollars in Singapore Banks from the sale of fossil fuels to western companies, a nest egg for themselves in case the heat on them goes up.

Daniel Sng

Sufficiency Economy- Concept with a Conscience !
Your new feature (“Special Feature” Jul-Aug’09) is very interesting. I have read before articles on the subject but your story gave me new food for thought. His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, the world’s longest reigning monarch has put his Sufficiency Economy Philosophy (SEP) to work for his subjects for over thirty years with outstanding results that the world can only learn from.
Especially his Royal projects which has uplifted the lives of millions of rural people is something worth emulating. Because of the stability that a benevolent King can provide, these projects which started small have become the source of so much sustainable development in Thailand and the country has achieved remarkable success by many indicators over the last many decades.
SEP’s emphasis on moderation and balance is perhaps what is needed most in these trying times when wanton greed and the winner takes it all philosophy has brought so much grief worldwide.

Umesh Sharma
Mumbai, India

NEXT Issue Nov-Dec 2009 Vol.3 No.6

Can Asean count on Angela Merkel in taking the EU-Asean ties to the next level? Exclusive interview
with the leader of Europe’s biggest economy sheds light on the growing prospects for closer ties between the soon-to-be integrated market of Asean and the EU.









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