See More on Facebook

Diplomacy, Economics

World powers converge on Bangkok as ASEAN presents opportunities, challenges

A Foreign Ministers meeting in Bangkok has drawn in all the major players.


Written by

Updated: August 1, 2019

At first glance, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting taking place in Bangkok this week does seem to have a familiar agenda.

Issues like regional economic integration, member-states’ diplomatic concerns and combating climate change are being thrashed out behind closed doors as per usual.

What is unusual about the meeting, though, is the number of foreign dignitaries attending – seats that traditionally were empty or filled with aids and assistants are being occupied by heavy hitters from Russia, China, Japan, South Korea, the US and beyond.

US-China Trade War

Among those attending the meetings and holding closed-door bilaterals with the region’s ministers is Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

With Beijing involved in a long drawn-out economic war of attrition with the United States, Southeast Asia has become China’s second-largest trading partner (behind only the European Union) and an economic alternative to Washington’s protectionism.

The region is eager for Chinese investment, funds for infrastructure development and tourists.

While Beijing is currently embroiled in an ongoing dispute with the Philippines and Vietnam over the South China Sea, Wang is making conciliatory remarks about the need to cooperate to find a solution.

“We are ready to continue to work with Asean to build on the progress we have made in our cooperation and enhance mutual political trust,” Wang said at a press conference on Wednesday.

Wang met separately with the ministers from the Philippines and Vietnam and undoubtedly stressed Beijing’s increasing investment in both countries.

It is anyone’s guess if Vietnam’s recent SOS to India for support against China, which it accused of “violating its sovereignty ”, figured in the discussions but feelings were obviously assuaged.

The Chinese Foreign Minister also took time to meet with Indonesia’s foreign minister and stressed that Beijing was ready to back Southeast Asia’s largest economy both in terms of infrastructure development as well as trade.

Brexit

British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab, appointed just last week to Boris Johnson’s pro-Brexit Cabinet, also travelled to Bangkok.

With the United Kingdom set to leave the European Union by October deal or no deal, according to the new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Raab is reaching out to new trading partners across the world.

China has already made overtures to Downing Street about opportunities and investments and Raab’s visit to Southeast Asia will focus on courting more potential trade partners.

In a statement released before his trip, Raab argued that “…for too long our trade focus has been on Europe…we need to expand our horizons.”

Asean already accounts for $43.8 billion in annual trade with the United Kingdom and Raab’s bilateral with each member state was clearly geared towards upping that figure significantly.

Russia

With Russia’s 2019 GDP growth slowing to less than 1%, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was in Bangkok building relationships with his regional counterparts and meeting with allies. Like in the UK, a slowdown in global trade has seen Russia meet with countries outside its traditional net of trade partners in the hope of boosting its economy.

Historically, Russia’s main source of trade with the region is the export of arms and expertise; Lavrov will be hoping that Russian goods and energy too will find ready buyers in the fast-developing region.

Japan-Korea Tensions & The US   

Also joining Lavrov and Wang Yi in Bangkok was US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Pompeo has not been in the region since the failed meeting in Hanoi between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

But while Pompeo’s counterparts focused on economic initiatives, it seems Pompeo was more concerned with repairing a regional alliance his administration has arguably helped fray.

Pompeo said he hoped to help mend Japan-South Korea relations.

An export ban by Japan on high tech components to South Korea has put the two US allies in North East Asia on a collision course.

“We will encourage them to find a path forward,” Pompeo told reporters, according to Reuters.

“They’re both great partners of ours. They’re both working closely with us in our effort to denuclearize North Korea. So, if we can help them find a good place, that’s certainly important for the United States.”

The South Korean and Japanese Foriegn Ministers are also scheduled to hold talks in Bangkok – their first face-to-face meeting since Tokyo implemented the export restrictions on 4 July.

A three-way meeting with the US to discuss Washington’s reported ‘standstill agreement’ proposal is also on the cards.

(Editing by Ishan Joshi)



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


Cod Satrusayang
About the Author: Cod Satrusayang is the Managing Editor at Asia News Network.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Diplomacy, Economics

Hong Kong adds another dimension to US-China trade war

Hong Kong’s has become another consideration for Xi and Trump in their ongoing trade dispute. The United States and China have been embroiled in a trade war for almost two years with reciprocal tariffs and fiery rhetoric coming from both sides. Both economies have suffered and the world’s two largest economies both face the looming threat of recession. China, in addition to a tenuous economic situation is also facing more woes in Hong Kong, a Chinese territory that is self-governed. Protesters have taken to the streets in the island-territory after a proposed extradition law was publicly opposed. The protests have evolved beyond the initial grievances to long-held anxieties over the economy, living space and, ultimately, rule by Beijing. As the pro-democracy protests gather steam and threaten to become more widespread and violent, the United States has involved itself and ad


By Cod Satrusayang
August 16, 2019

Diplomacy, Economics

Moon urges Japan to choose ‘path of dialogue and cooperation’

Japan and South Korea have been locked in an increasingly ugly trade spat. President Moon Jae-in said Thursday that Seoul will cooperate with Tokyo if it retracts its recent trade restrictions, stressing the importance of international cooperation and free trade. “Within the realm of the international division of labor, if any country weaponizes a sector where it has a comparative advantage, the peaceful free trade order will inevitably suffer damages,” Moon said in his Liberation Day speech. “Better late than never. If Japan chooses the path of dialogue and cooperation, we will gladly join hands. We will strive with Japan to create an East


By The Korea Herald
August 16, 2019

Diplomacy, Economics

China will quell Hong Kong protests that show signs of terrorism: Chinese ambassador to UK

China has previously said that the protests have bordered on terrorism. China will use its power to quell Hong Kong protests if the situation deteriorates further after some protesters have shown signs of terrorism, China’s ambassador to London said on Thursday (Aug 15). “Should the situation in Hong Kong deteriorate further… the central government will not sit on its hands and watch,” Ambassador Liu Xiaoming told reporters at a news conference in London. “We have enough solutions and enough power within the limits of (the) Basic Law to quell any unrest swiftly,” Mr Liu said. “Their moves are severe and violent offences, and already shows signs of terrorism.” He added: “The central gove


By The Straits Times
August 16, 2019

Diplomacy, Economics

UNSC to hold ‘closed door’ meeting on India’s Kashmir move: Reports

The meeting will be held at Pakistan’s request. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) will reportedly hold a “closed door” meeting to discuss India’s move to revoke Article 37, that had granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir. UNSC President Joanna Wronecka told reporters on Wednesday said that they would discuss “the Jammu and Kashmir situation behind closed doors most likely on August 16”, according to media reports. The development comes after Pakistan wrote a formal letter to the UNSC president calling for an emergency meeting of the UNSC to discuss India’s move to revoke the special status to Jammu and Kashmir. The letter was sent through Permanent Representative Maleha Lodhi to convene the meeting. “I have requested in the letter that a special meeting of the Security Council should be called to discuss those actions of India which we consider as illegal and aga


By The Statesman
August 16, 2019

Diplomacy, Economics

China, the United States and the story of agriculture

China says the US responsible for its farmers’ woes. Editor’s Note: Last week the Commerce Ministry said Chinese enterprises have halted the purchase of US agricultural products following Washington’s threat to impose 10 percent tariffs on another $300 billion of Chinese goods. Two experts share their views on the issue with China Daily’s Yao Yuxin. Excerpts follow: Declining exports to hit US farmers The Chinese enterprises’ decision to suspend the purchase of US agricultural products, mainly soybean, dairy products, sorghum and pork, will deal a fresh blow to farmers and traders in the United States. The escalating trade conflict between the world’s two largest economies has slashed US exports of farm produce to China, which used to be the largest importer of US soybean. China imported $9.1 billion worth of US farm produce last year, down fr


By China Daily
August 16, 2019

Diplomacy, Economics

India gauges international response to its Kashmir decision

Delhi’s unilateral move has been met with varying response from the international community. India’s decided earlier this month to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir state. The state will be bifurcated it into two union territories – Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh – which will be accountable directly to the federal government. Whether India likes it or not, its Kashmir decision has international ramifications and Modi’s government will be gauging them carefully. That is relatively good news for India’s Narendra Modi-led government which has staked much of its political capital on coming through on this long-promised move after winning a landslide second consecutive election in May. United States President Donald Trump said in a bland statement: “We are closely following the events in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. We take note of India’s a


By Ishan Joshi
August 15, 2019