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‘Asean Charter for Asean Peoples’ is the theme of the 14th summit. Yet the dialogue with civil society groups got off to a wobbly start when Cambodia and Myanmar refused to recognise the groups representing their countries. Asean members seem to be succumbing to its tradition of non-interference in each other's affairs and taking decisions by consensus instead of sticking to its rules.
4. Does this signal that it is a long way away for Asean to make any progress on promoting participation of civil society and human rights?
Personally I do not think so. I believe Asean is doing its best for the Asean countries and its people which is definitely inline with the theme of the 14th Asean summit.
The biggest outcome of the summit apparent is the signing of Free Trade Agreement between Asean, New Zealand and Australia that could eventually add $48 billion to economies in the region.
5. Do you agree with the statement, if not, why? Which Asean member countries should benefit the most from this trade deal?
FTA is an eventual progression for countries that are serious and is committed towards the growth for its business communities. Therefore, I see that getting the 2 countries (New Zealand and Australia) to have the FTA between Asean is definitely beneficial to the Asean business communities as a whole instead of a specific country benefiting from the exercise.
Asean officials have argued against protectionism but have defended their own buy-local campaigns, saying they conform to trade rules and are similar to the "Buy American" clause that was inserted into the $787 billion US stimulus package.
6. Do you think those ‘buy-local’ campaigns go against the spirit of free trade. Don’t you think free trade and open economies are necessary for the world get out of the current recession? What’s your take?
I do not see that the ‘buy-local’ campaigns are going against the spirit of free trade. This is because competitiveness will come into play, where the local businesses will need to keep up with their foreign competitors in the same field of business. Vice versa foreign businesses will need to localise their products and services to suit the particular local market which they are penetrating. Therefore, I see that it gives opportunity to businesses to understand and create more value for the consumers. In return it will stimulate more consumers spending. Furthermore, consumers are very much knowledgeable with the things that they want in today’s society.
Days before the summit, finance ministers from Asean, China, South Korea and Japan set up an enlarged currency pool which countries can tap into to defend their currencies if they become the victims of runaway capital flight.
7. How effective will this swap arrangement be considering the unpredictable nature of global financial outlook?
It is certainly good to have the support from stronger countries, but I believe in this round of economic corrections, countries in Asean is much more ready and mature in handling this challenges.
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