July 19, 2018, 4:09 am
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Asean economies face common challenges

BY DINDO DANAO

WHILE Asean economies remain to be among the most dynamic and resilient in the world, the regional bloc must be wary of the “political consequences” of its economic relationships.

Ambassador Albert del Rosario, chairman of Stratbase ADR Institute (ADRi) in his speech during the ‘Asean at Fifty: The Way Forward’ conference in Makati City said, “Asean has some six hundred million people or about 10 percent of the global population. Collectively, the Asean economy is the seventh largest in the world. 

It includes some of the fastest growing economies in the world. Asean members have shown a skillfulness in exploiting economic niches. Our Economic Community, through which we engage the world, helps us to do that.”

Ambassador Robert R. Romulo, chairman of the Carlos P. Romulo Foundation said, “America’s seeming retreat from global leadership on such matters ranging from guarantor of peace to economic liberalism and even to climate change has led to worldwide uncertainty and lack of direction. 

At the same time, China’s economic clout has translated into the geopolitical sphere. Russia has again become a player in global security.”

ADRi President, Dindo Manhit said that Asean is in a very tricky political situation with its neighbor China, which also happens to be the group’s second largest trading partner after intra- Asean trade.

Manhit cited the case of the Philippines, whose relationship with Beijing had soured following a years-long arbitration case over disputed territories in the South China Sea.

“For the Philippines, there is little to separate our political disagreements with China from our economic ties with it,” he said.

Manhit said that China’s status as an economic power vis-à-vis its much-criticized militarization of the important sea lane, including the recent installation of more facilities in disputed islands, has “translated into fear” among Asean countries, Manhit added.

“Governments fear economic retaliation or backlash.”

This puts at risk the potential of the Asean bloc, whose combined Gross Domestic Product is the sixth largest in the world, and which grew amidst a worldwide slowdown. The 625 million people, meanwhile, who call the region home account for nearly a tenth of the global population.

The key, Manhit said, is for Asean to define its own leadership. 

“To start, the largest states, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam, should consider offering that leadership and serving as the tip of our spear. To do otherwise is to cede the initiative to an outside power.” said Manhit.
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