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Weekly NewsLetter
2 May 2011
    Vol.1 No.12

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The Editor's Corner


Asean members need to streamline and reform
          With western countries still climbing out of the global recession, there is little doubt Asean member states are riding a wave of prosperity. Currencies have appreciated, industry has expanded and they are not saddled with debt issues that have surfaced in the European Union and the United States. The lessons of the 1997 financial crisis appear to have taught Asean countries some hard Lessons.

The question now arises, “Is this just another bubble or can economic growth be sustained in Asean?”

The answer may be in how rapidly Asean countries reform and adapt to the new global economic framework and there is no clear answer to this challenge at this time.

Every Asean Affairs reader should know that the Asean Economic Community (AEC) is set to start in 2015. But before that momentous event, how Asean countries are dealing with Free Trade Agreements can provide clues as to how swiftly Asean countries can adapt to the even larger challenges posed by the advent of the AEC.

In particular, the free trade agreements (FTA) already in place, especially the China-Asean FTA that came into effect January 1, 2010, can provide some clues. Right now the results have not been encouraging.

Let’s start at the top with Asean’s largest economy, Indonesia.

As cheap Chinese imports have flooded in Indonesia, local Indonesian industries have been crying foul. Indonesia had a US$4.7 billion trade deficit with China in 2010. Indonesia imported $20.42 billion and exported just $15.7 billion. This has led to cries of “renegotiation.”

This past week two Indonesian economists said the real solution was to strengthen local industries, especially in the areas of connectivity and logistics, where Indonesia has poor ratings. They also noted that other Asean members such as Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand had trade surpluses with China.

Along the same lines, the World Bank this week issued a report that the reforms promised by Malaysia’s New Economic Model (NEM) have slowed and this in turn, has made investors skeptical about the effect of the announced reforms under the NEM and has increased their apprehensions about investment in Malaysia.

How the diverse Asean member states handle FTAs in the 3.5 years before the launch of the AEC-will tell the world how well Asean will do after the AEC becomes a reality.


Top News from Southeast Asia

May1 , 2011


These were the most important news stories published by Asean Affairs during the week of April 23-April 29.

Fitch gives favorable ratings to Indonesia financials
The outlook for Indonesia’s major finance companies is “generally stable,” according to Fitch Ratings, reflecting favorable domestic economic prospects that helped finance firms bring in strong earnings last year.

Malaysian rare earth plant faces scrutiny 
An independent panel of international experts will be appointed to review the safety of the rare earth plant project in Pahang, said International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed.

Asean developing garment plans 
As global clothing retailers move away from China, Asean countries are looking to benefit by integrating production facilities in Asean.

Myanmar exploration deals on tap 
Myanmar’s state oil firm is set to sign contracts with companies from China, Singapore and South Korea for oil and gas exploration, state news media reported.

Boeung Kak Lake dispute continues  
Phnom Penh officials have agreed to meet with representatives of Boeung Kak residents today, following the release of 11 Cambodian villagers who were beaten and arrested on Thursday during a protest against their impending eviction, local media report.

Garments, textiles lead surge in Vietnamese exports  
The country's export revenue in the first four months of the year surged 35.7 percent over the same period last year to reach US$26.94 billion, the Vietnam General Statistics Office estimated.

Thai business wants border battles stopped  
Businesspeople are calling for a quick resolution to border disputes with Cambodia, warning that continued clashes will hurt border trade and bilateral investment sentiment.
READ MORE: Businesspeople are calling for a quick resolution to border disputes with Cambodia, warning that continued clashes will hurt border trade and bilateral investment sentiment.

Indonesia Shouldn’t Renegotiate China FTA  
Indonesia should focus on increasing its competitiveness rather than try to renegotiate the Asean-China Free Trade Agreement, economists and business executives said.

Lao dam threatens Mekong Delta  
Local experts have voiced their concerns over the grave consequences of building the Xayaburi Dam in Laos, saying it would seriously jeopardize the southern Mekong Delta, causing a decline in the volume of sediment and irreversible environmental impacts.

Thai panel delays nuclear plans  
The Thai government has decided to delay the construction of proposed nuclear power plants by three years even as the Japan Nuclear Energy Safety Organisation (JNES) said that Thailand should not fall back on the recent experience of Japan to decide on nuclear power policy.

Indonesian government criticized on radical group  
Two of Indonesia’s highest institutions have blasted the government for either missing the rapid formation of the extremist Indonesian Islamic State or worse, allowing it to occur.

US forces could return to the Philippines 
High-level visits in the Philippines' Subic Bay Freeport by US officials have raised the prospect of a return of the United States’ military presence in this former naval base in the wake of disasters that hit Japan, which have delayed the planned US military build-up in Guam.

Indonesia’s Yudhoyono asks for help with radicals  
In an acknowledgment that religious-based violence posed a serious threat to the nation, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called on Indonesians not to rely on the police but to help stamp out extremism’s spread from inside their communities.

World Bank: Malaysia needs more reforms  
Although Malaysia has taken steps to restructure its economy via the Economic Transformation Programme, more deep-seated reforms as laid out in the New Economic Model (NEM) have slowed as the government seeks a balance between tackling more immediate problems and long-term transformation.

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