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Changing Asian landscape

Ushering in a new era

A region seeking answers to key challenges can take heart from a successful Trump visit to China

P1 new era

November 13-19, 2017
By KARL WILSON
in Sydney
karlwilson@chinadailyapac.com

China rolled out the red carpet for US President Donald Trump when he arrived in Beijing on Nov 8 at the start of a three-day state visit and a series of discussions with President Xi Jinping.

The United States leader was given a “state visit-plus” reception with a lavish welcoming ceremony featuring special arrangements, including the performance of US military music and the participation of 10 US students in the welcoming party, which normally consists of Chinese students.

A meeting between the two leaders and their top advisers exceeded the originally scheduled one hour.

Sino-US relations are “at a new historic starting point”, and cooperation is “the only correct choice” for the two countries, Xi said in his opening remarks at the extended meeting.

China is willing to focus on cooperation and control disagreement with the US, to benefit the people of both sides as well as the whole world, he said.

Trump expressed gratitude for the warm reception from the Chinese president, saying that his meeting with Xi on Nov 8 night was “absolutely terrific”.

“There can be no more important subject than China-US relations,” Trump said.

Observers agree that this is a critical juncture with the geopolitical and economic landscape of the Asia-Pacific region rapidly changing.

The two leaders also witnessed the signing of 15 commercial documents worth of $253.5 billion on Nov 9, which was seen as a strong signal of increased bilateral trade.

The agreements and memorandums of understanding, signed at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, included energy deals and the purchase of US-produced chipsets and soybeans. Boeing and China Aviation Supplies Holding signed an agreement for 300 airplanes.

Companies from the two countries agreed to cooperate on a gas project in Alaska worth $43 billion and a shale gas demonstration project valued at $83.7 billion.

The exceedingly warm and cordial ties between the world’s two largest economies and their leaders cannot have come at a better time for a region seeking answers to a series of key questions, ranging from free trade to climate change.

Just as importantly, it came on the eve of important events that took place over the weekend.

The economic leaders’ meeting of the 21-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, on Nov 10 to 11 in Da Nang, Vietnam, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit and related meetings, hosted in the Philippines from Nov 10 to 14, further highlight the critical decisions confronting the region.

Trump’s visit also follows the recently concluded 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), where the Belt and Road Initiative and Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era were enshrined in the Party’s Constitution.

Observers agree that this is a critical juncture with the geopolitical and economic landscape of the Asia-Pacific region rapidly changing.

In a commentary on Nov 8, Xinhua News Agency said Trump’s visit comes as China is “transitioning its economy from a phase of rapid growth to a stage of high-quality development, setting a higher standard for the economic transformation”.

“In the United States, the Trump administration has to tackle major challenges facing its economy, like restoring its manufacturing industries and spurring job creation. Trump has set specific goals, including a 3 percent growth, improving America’s collapsing infrastructure, and shrinking trade deficits.

“To achieve their targets, China and the United States, the world’s two largest economies and each other’s top trade partners, have no better choice but to work more closely because of their highly intertwined economic and trade interests.”

In 2016, two-way goods trade was worth $578.6 billion, while two-way foreign direct investment passed $60 billion.

“However, both countries need a stable and peaceful environment at the national, regional, as well as international levels for their continuous economic development. Beijing and Washington therefore require to deepen their trust and enhance cooperation on major regional and international issues,” Xinhua noted.

Analysts say Xi and Trump have built a respectful relationship over the past year.

Both leaders attended the APEC meeting in Da Nang. Following the summit, Xi started an official tour of Vietnam and Laos.

The original goal of APEC, established in 1989, was to promote free trade throughout the Asia-Pacific region. The US used it as a vehicle to push the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) — a trade agreement that included Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam.

Basically designed by the US, it was a deal that excluded China but now looks like it is falling apart after Trump pulled America out of the 12-nation agreement on Jan 23, his first full weekday in office as US president.

President Xi Jinping, US President Donald Trump and the first ladies, Peng Liyuan and Melania Trump, pose for a photo with young performers after watching a Peking Opera performance at the Palace Museum on Nov 8. Credit: Wu Zhiyi / China Daily

Pradumna Bickram Rana, however, believes that a TPP II is possible. “All 11 (remaining) countries have been conducting feasibility studies on it in the past few months,” said Rana, an associate professor and coordinator of the International Political Economy Programme at the Centre for Multilateralism Studies, S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University.

China, too, has been pushing its own trade agreement, known as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

RCEP is a free trade agreement between the 10 member states of ASEAN (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam) and the six states with which ASEAN has existing free trade agreements (Australia, China, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea (ROK) and New Zealand).

RCEP negotiations were formally launched in November 2012 at the ASEAN Summit in Cambodia. The agreement is scheduled to be finalized by the end of this year. RCEP is viewed as an alternative to the TPP, which not only excludes China but also India.

RCEP member states account for 3.4 billion people and a total GDP of $49.5 trillion, or about 39 percent of the global economy, with the combined GDPs of China and India making up more than half of that amount.

Apart from trade, one issue that has dominated Trump’s talks with regional leaders — Xi, the ROK’s President Moon Jae-in on Nov 7 and Japan’s re-elected Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Nov 6 — has been the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and its nuclear program.

Addressing the ROK’s National Assembly on Nov 8, Trump said it was the ROK’s “magnificent achievement” that that was the source of the “greatest concern, even the greatest panic” to the DPRK dictatorship.

Trade is the other issue that has Asian leaders worried. The fact that Trump has torn up the US-inspired and largely US-written TPP agreement was seen by some as a significant blow.

“Whatever happens with US trade policy, free trade will continue with or without the US,” said Sandra Seno-Alday, a lecturer in international business at the University of Sydney.

A commentary on Nov 5 in the East Asia Forum, published by the Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University, said China’s combination of firm rule, political stability and economic success is “turning heads in Southeast Asia where political systems are under strain”.

“Privately, Southeast Asian elites from the Philippines to Indonesia have long expressed admiration for China’s progress, and that admiration is now finding public expression,” it said.

Indonesia’s Jakarta Post, a liberal-leaning English-language newspaper, said in an editorial on Oct 26 that there were a “myriad of universal lessons Indonesia could draw” from the just-concluded CPC National Congress. Among them, China’s anti-corruption drive, building a moderately prosperous society and ensuring the “law of the land prevails”.

In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte’s so-called China pivot — choosing diplomacy over confrontation over the disputed South China Sea — has already reaped huge economic benefits for his country.

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Duterte’s first visit to China in October 2016 was described by Xi as a milestone, with both leaders knowing it would bring about bigger and better trade opportunities for the two countries. Duterte put aside the territorial dispute in the South China Sea and came away with deals reported to be worth $13.5 billion.

Similarly, Singapore and China maintain high-level contact despite the island state’s close ties with the US.

During a recent meeting in Beijing with Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Xi said maintaining high-level contact is a tradition established by previous generations of leaders in China and Singapore, which also shows the close relationship between the two countries.

“Strengthening political mutual trust and consolidating bilateral relations not only conforms with the interests of the two countries and their people, but also benefits regional and world peace, stability and prosperity,” Xi said.

With the re-election of Abe in Japan, it is probably too early to say how diplomatic relations between Beijing and Tokyo will develop. But on the economic front, ties have never been better.

According to Rumi Aoyama, professor of international relations at Tokyo’s Waseda University, business ties between the two countries are strong. She said in a paper for the East Asia Forum in August that as of October 2016 there were 32,313 Japanese firms operating in China.

This represents almost half of the total 71,820 Japanese firms that have expanded overseas and far exceeds that of the US, which has the second-largest number of foreign firms in China at 8,422.

“Approximately 80 percent of Japanese firms in China have reported that they are making a profit, with 25.8 percent stating that they are more profitable in China than in Japan,” Aoyama said.

Other countries in the region such as Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia are all said to be gaining economically from Chinese investment.

In Central Asia, too, the story is much the same, as China pushes ahead with the Belt and Road Initiative. Proposed by Xi in 2013, the Belt and Road refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. The plan is to build a trade and infrastructure network boosting connectivity between Asia, Europe and Africa along the ancient Silk Road routes.

China’s economic importance to ASEAN, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, also should not be underestimated. China is now ASEAN’s biggest trading partner, while ASEAN is China’s third-largest trading partner.

China is not seeking conflict, nor does it want to impose its system of government on other countries.

At the end of May, combined two-way investment between ASEAN and China had exceeded $183 billion, of which $108 billion was ASEAN investment in China, according to Xinhua.

China is also gaining ground in regional diplomacy. One good illustration of that is India, where relations have not been easy.

At a meeting in September with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in Xiamen in East China’s Fujian province, Xi said he wanted to put the relationship with India on the “right track” and mend ties damaged earlier by the tense Himalayan border standoff.

The meeting was the first between the two leaders since Chinese and Indian troops ended the standoff in the Donglang (Doklam) border region — the most serious military confrontation between the two nations in decades.

Xi said India should see China’s development correctly and rationally, according to a report by Xinhua on Sept 5.

He said China and India should see each other as development opportunities rather than threats, adding that peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation are the only right choice for the two countries.

Xi called on the two sides to have mutual respect, seek common ground while shelving differences, and safeguard peace and tranquility in border areas, Xinhua reported.

The point is that China is not seeking conflict, nor does it want to impose its system of government on other countries.

Xi made this perfectly clear in his report to the Party Congress when he said: “No two political systems are entirely the same, and a political system cannot be judged in abstraction without regard for its social and political context, its history, and its cultural traditions.

“No one political system should be regarded as the only choice; and we should not just mechanically copy the political systems of other countries.”

Few would question China’s international standing today, and as Xi told the congress: “The Chinese nation, with an entirely new posture, now stands tall and firm in the East.

“With decades of hard work, socialism with Chinese characteristics has crossed the threshold into a new era. This is a new historic juncture in China’s development.”

In the case of ASEAN, it is a grouping that China “strongly supports”, said Fariborz Moshirian, a professor and director of the Institute of Global Finance at the University of New South Wales Business School in Sydney.

He said, however, that ASEAN Plus Three, which includes Japan, the ROK and China, “could also be another major trading bloc that should work closely for free trade and investment activities in the region”.

Sustaining ASEAN’s success China-led Belt and Road Initiative and infrastructure investment bank will play key roles in 10-nation bloc’s development

November 13-19, 2017
By DAVID HO
in Hong Kong
For China Daily Asia Weekly

As leaders of Southeast Asian countries gathered in the Philippines for the ASEAN summit and related meetings that started on Nov 10, they would have pondered what lies ahead while also reflecting on the 10-nation bloc’s past achievements.

And a key factor that will determine the sustained economic growth of the 50-year-old Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will be its growing relationship with China.

“China and ASEAN have been working over the years to increase trade flows within the region through frameworks like the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area. Even within China, there have been internal policies to encourage more trade flow with regional partners,” said Winnie Tsui, an economist with the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC).

“There have definitely been push and pull factors on both sides to create a more a cooperative economic partnership.”

The economic profile of the region has grown significantly since its inception. If ASEAN were a single country, it would boast a combined GDP of $2.5 trillion as of last year. Analysis firm IHS Global Insight estimates it will rank as the fourth-largest economy in the world by 2050.

In recent years, the group has been strengthening ties with its Plus Three partners — China, South Korea and Japan. In September, it renewed and intensified efforts under the ASEAN Plus Three Cooperation Work Plan.

Traffic comes to a standstill on a highway during morning rush hour in Jakarta on Sept 20. Like other less-developed economies, Indonesia has a huge need for transport infrastructure to support development. Credit: AFP

Last year, Chinese Premier Li Ke-qiang proposed six goals to enhance ASEAN Plus Three cooperation: To reinforce financial security cooperation, expand trade and investment cooperation, promote agricultural and poverty reduction cooperation, increase connectivity, create new models for industrial cooperation, and expand exchanges.

Total trade between ASEAN and the three countries amounted to $708.6 billion in 2015, 31.1 percent of ASEAN’s total. In the same year, the total foreign direct investment flows from the three countries into ASEAN reached $31 billion, 26 percent of total FDI inflows to the region.

China has been a key engine of this growth. The country was the first to establish a free trade area with ASEAN in 2002, the first to sign up to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia and to establish a strategic partnership with ASEAN in 2003.

“Our analysis shows that China is a major trading partner of the ASEAN-5 (Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia), and is ranked among the top three for exports and imports for these Southeast Asian economies,” said Chua Han Teng, head of Asia country risk at BMI Research.

Since 2009, China has been ASEAN’s largest trading partner, with two-way trade reaching $350 billion in 2013 and set to reach $1 trillion by 2020. Trade with China makes up about 14 percent of ASEAN’s total and is growing at 10 percent per year.

The close trading relationship means ASEAN and China are intrinsically tied.

“ASEAN countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines play an integral role in Asian supply chains by supplying key electronics inputs to China’s processing trade,” said Chua, adding that Indonesia is a key provider of natural resources to China.

And changes taking place in China could also translate into slower but more sustainable growth.

“China is in the midst of transforming its economy and moving up the value chain, which might account for its more sluggish performance of late,” said Xu Bei, an associate director with the China-ASEAN Investment Cooperation Fund.

“ASEAN’s manufacturing capabilities and production rate are not up to par with China yet. Tech transfers between the two could be helpful in boosting the numbers related to that.

“Once ASEAN countries gain stronger manufacturing capabilities, they can focus on selling back to feed the already big and growing consumption appetite of China,” she said.

The ADB said that ASEAN needs to invest $210 billion per year until 2030 to meet infrastructure needs.

Set to boost infrastructure investment is the China-led Belt and Road Initiative to revive the ancient Silk Road trading routes, as well as the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity to better connect the region.

“Since the adoption of the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2010, notable progress has been made,” said Lee Minsoo, a senior economist at the Asian Development Bank (ADB). “However, much remains to be done to realize the vision of a seamlessly connected ASEAN.”

In September last year, ASEAN leaders adopted the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025, which incorporates the remaining initiatives from the previous plan.

The ADB said that ASEAN needs to invest $210 billion per year until 2030 to meet infrastructure needs in areas like power, transport, water and sanitation. The Belt and Road could ensure a head start with projects worth $350 billion over the next five years.

“China’s Belt and Road Initiative to build railway infrastructure in Southeast Asia is likely to take considerable time to bear fruit due to the scale of the plans and political uncertainty in the countries involved,” Chua said.

“If successful, the railway network connecting China to Laos and Thailand and even Singapore could shorten shipping times in the region,” he added.

Stanley Jia, chief representative of the Beijing office of global law firm Baker McKenzie, said: “The sheer scale and ambition of the (Belt and Road) means there will be plentiful opportunities for those local and multinational companies that can work hand in hand with Chinese organizations, particularly as the next wave of Chinese investment arrives.”

Much needs to be done to ensure infrastructure does not become the Achilles heel of growth in the region.

In this, another China-led initiative, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, will have a crucial role to play.

The bank was formally launched by President Xi Jinping on Jan 16, 2016, and its website shows that as of Oct 31 it had $3.49 billion in loans; approved 21 projects; and has 58 members, with another 22 prospective members.

The HKTDC found that in the less-developed economies like Indonesia and Vietnam, there is a huge need for transport infrastructure to support industrial growth and boost development.

More developed economies like Malaysia need to expand existing infrastructure to boost capacity.

Thailand, with aspirations to transform into a high-income country in two decades, is keen to develop the Eastern Economic Corridor in its industrial heartland along with 10 special economic zones along its borders.

Chinese outbound investments with a Belt and Road focus will be key to achieving ASEAN infrastructure construction goals.

“Infrastructure doesn’t just connect two places — it allows the path between the two destinations a chance to bloom as well,” said Patrick Ip, managing director of the China-ASEAN Investment Cooperation Fund, the largest private equity fund focused on the ASEAN region. “Having the right infrastructure in place gives a boost to everything.”

“The short-term and long-term multiplying effects of infrastructure spending on GDP are substantial. This will boost the middle-class sizes and income creating further investment opportunities in healthcare, education, better housing, retail consumption and quality food products,” said Ip.

The ADB has revised up its projections for subregional growth to 5 percent for 2017 and 5.1 percent for 2018.

He also urged countries to consider upping their investments in viable infrastructure projects.

“According to a recent Asian Development Bank study, ASEAN countries need to spend 5 percent of their GDP to meet their infrastructure needs. But at the moment, they are only spending 3 percent. A breakdown of that shows that 2.5 percent comes from the public sector while the other 0.5 percent comes from the private sector,” Ip said.

“They need to meet that remaining 2 percent, which amounts to about $146 billion, through more government spending and public-private partnerships (PPP).”

Lee from the ADB said these partnerships, which have evolved and improved, are at the heart of plans to develop infrastructure and the benefits they generate by sharing risks between the public and private sector.

“Instead of providing exclusively public assets and related services, governments have increasingly relied on the market for the direct provision of public goods and services,” Lee said.

“If appropriately deployed and managed, PPP facilitates the provision of adequate and efficient infrastructure services for users, profitable investment opportunities for the private sector, and a development mechanism that expands the capacity of the state.

“Southeast Asia is poised to surpass earlier growth forecasts,” said Lee.

The ADB has revised up its projections for subregional growth to 5 percent for 2017 and 5.1 percent for 2018.

“Growth for ASEAN will likely be in an upward trend,” said Tsui of the HKTDC.

Investors eye youth dividend Young and increasingly urbanized workforce set to sustain ASEAN’s economic development

November 13-19, 2017
By DAVID HO
 in Hong Kong
For China Daily Asia Weekly

In the end, it is all about the people. In ASEAN, a relatively young and increasingly urbanized population may be the key to sustained economic development.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the 10-nation grouping that is emerging as a powerful economic force and a key trade partner with China, is basing most of its expectations for growth on a relatively young population that is migrating into cities.

These young people are not moving into the giant metropolitan centers, like Jakarta or Manila, but are piling into second-tier cities, like Bandung and Surabaya in Indonesia or Cebu and Davao in the Philippines.

About 22 percent of ASEAN’s 600-million-plus population live in cities of 200,000 people or more. These urban areas account for about 54 percent of ASEAN’s GDP, according to a report by global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company. Another 54 million people will be moving to cities by 2025.

Interestingly, smaller cities are growing faster than the largest urban centers. Almost 40 percent of ASEAN’s GDP growth through 2025 is expected to come from 142 cities with populations ranging from 200,000 to 5 million.

As the regional bloc marks its 50th year, the question facing its leaders is how to maintain momentum and ensure sustainable economic growth.

Students attend a lecture at a law college in Hanoi on Oct 31 last year. ASEAN countries such as Vietnam need to take a page from the Chinese growth story and put their economic development on a more sustainable track. Credit: Gregor Fischer / DPA

“Fifty years ago, ASEAN was formed with the theme of joint political stability for the initial five founding countries. Since then, ASEAN’s priorities have shifted to economics,” said Patrick Ip, managing director of the China-ASEAN Investment Cooperation Fund, the largest private equity fund focused on the ASEAN region.

“Clearly, the development differences and GDP gaps make ASEAN a very mixed basket,” Ip said.

“One thing they all have in common is very rich human capital. They boast a young workforce that is eager to learn, adaptable and is heavy in consumption.”

ASEAN economies are showing robust expansion, with the Philippines leading the way at 6.9 percent GDP growth in 2016, Myanmar at 6.5 percent and Vietnam at 6.2 percent. Nearby Indonesia is clocking 5 percent growth, and the Malaysian economy grew 4.2 percent in 2016 despite weakness in energy prices.

Collectively, this makes ASEAN the fastest-growing region compared to other parts of the world, like Latin America or the European Union.

“The ASEAN economies are both consumption and export based. With a young demography, they will and should follow in China’s footsteps toward a new economy. Thus, the next big boom would be things like fintech and other disruptive innovations,” said Ip.

ASEAN’s consumers are making their presence felt online. Mobile penetration of 110 percent and Internet penetration of 25 percent across the region has facilitated the emergence of the second-largest community of Facebook users, just behind the United States.

ASEAN has also emerged as a key partner for China, while China is, in turn, powering ASEAN growth.

“ASEAN has become a major destination for Chinese enterprises to invest. Bilateral investment between China and ASEAN reached over $160 billion by the end of May 2016,” said Neil Wang, global partner and China managing director of consultancy firm Frost & Sullivan.

“After 26 years of mutual cooperation, China has become the largest trading partner of ASEAN. ASEAN, on the other hand, is China’s third-largest trading partner. In the face of the new international economic situation, China-ASEAN is trying to expand bilateral trade and bilateral investment.

“China is looking for opportunities in challenges,” said Wang.

It is not just the Chinese State sector that is driving ASEAN growth. The private sector is emerging as an increasingly important player.

“China has advocated globalization as a model of win-win cooperation. They have consistently advocated the establishment of an open, transparent and mutually beneficial and win-win regional free trade instead of engaging in an exclusive and fragmented individual circle.”

It is not just the Chinese State sector that is driving ASEAN growth. The private sector is emerging as an increasingly important player. The investments have been restricted to certain industries, but growth is visible.

“Purely private Chinese companies making these investments are still mostly in manufacturing, garments and electronics, since ASEAN has taken over more of the manufacturing role that China used to do,” said Winnie Tsui, an economist at the Hong Kong Trade Development Council.

Tsui believes that already healthy trade levels will continue to grow. Chinese companies, she said, “have been steadily producing more products of quality and actually moving a lot of the manufacturing to ASEAN”.

All of this is good news for ASEAN and for Chinese traders and investors. But for ASEAN to take a page from the Chinese growth story and put its economic development on a more sustainable track, it will have to address a number of issues — many of which were on the agenda as ASEAN leaders gathered in Manila.

The Philippines, as 2017 chair of the regional body, is hosting the 31st ASEAN Summit and related meetings, which began on Nov 10 and continue until Nov 14.

Not far from the top of the list of issues is corruption. A number of ASEAN members fared poorly in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2016.

A second concern is a rather uneven distribution of wealth and growth dividends. “In certain ASEAN countries, the rich get richer while the poor get poorer. This could lead to political instability, especially with the rise of populism in the area, and stunt economic growth,” said Ip at the China-ASEAN Investment Cooperation Fund.

A third concern is the need for various ASEAN members to move up the industrial value chain. A lot of the countries in the region rely on exports for growth as opposed to building stronger manufacturing industries, more domestic demand or encouraging innovation.

“Moving up the value chain and diversifying is going to require education, tech, infrastructure and the right workforce. All these factors are strongly interlinked,” said Ip, and all these factors may be addressed in mid-tier urban centers.

A fourth issue that has to be addressed, he said, is the need to build a stronger legal framework. A fifth is the importance of creating a level playing field for all businesses.

“ASEAN has seen amazing growth through turbulent times in the half-century since its formation,” said Ip from the China-ASEAN Investment Cooperation Fund.

“Certain sectors are dominated by family businesses in certain countries. With this monopoly by big corporations and established businesses, there is very little room for the newcomers and young entrepreneurs, which also stops innovations from surfacing,” Ip said.

Addressing these concerns at the regional level may be challenging, particularly as it will require the 10 members to work together and even reach out to partners like China.

“Coordinated dialogue at a regional level is also necessary to ensure that the opportunities presented by an integrated economy, connectivity, sector cooperation and dynamism are maximized through the ASEAN Economic Community, enabling freer movement of goods, services, investment, skilled labor and capital,” said Lee Minsoo, a senior economist at the Asian Development Bank.

Ip is fairly optimistic about the progress ASEAN has made and the potential for the region to continue growing and developing.

“ASEAN has seen amazing growth through turbulent times in the half-century since its formation,” Ip said. “They could experience continuous growth for the next 50 years but there are certain issues that they need to iron out first.”

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