Osama Down, Obama Will Pivot
Volume II | Issue No. 7 | May 3, 2011
Killing Osama bin Laden (OBL) will deliver more than an existential sense of justice served to families whose innocent mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons were butchered by him and his al Qaeda terrorists: it will provide an important and historical pivot point for President Obama. The turn will be from the quagmire of a “war on terrorism” dominated by a focus on the Middle East to a new paradigm for security and growth in Asia... Read More | Read Newsletter in PDF
The Week That Was
- New U.S. Ambassador Arrives in Jakarta
- South China Sea Off of EAS Agenda
- Singapore Elections this Week
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- Access to Opportunity in Southeast Asia
- Reinventing ASEAN’s Potential
- Asia’s Rising Energy and Commodity Nationalism
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OSAMA DOWN, OBAMA WILL PIVOT
By Ernest Bower, Senior Adviser & Director, Southeast Asia Program
Killing Osama bin Laden (OBL) will deliver more than an existential sense of justice served to families whose innocent mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons were butchered by him and his al Qaeda terrorists: it will provide an important and historical pivot point for President Obama. The turn will be from the quagmire of a “war on terrorism” dominated by a focus on the Middle East to a new paradigm for security and growth in Asia.
This move will put America on new footing: less defensive and more strategic. The fight against terrorism and specifically al Qaeda is far from over, as the president said in his remarks the day after Navy SEALS took OBL down in Abbottabad. However, the way that fight is engaged will now change.
The new approach is vitally important for America’s future national security and economic growth, two core interests that for the twenty-first century are intrinsically intertwined and anchored in Asia.
The paradigm shift is coming not a moment too soon. The United States has sacrificed promoting its interests in Asia for over a decade now, focusing on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Meanwhile, China, which has benefited handsomely from an enormous U.S. commitment to secure peace and prosperity in Asia following World War II, has smartly taken advantage of the situation and built its economic influence, specifically in Southeast Asia and in the Asia Pacific more generally. China is now the top trading partner for most countries in the region; it is pouring tied aid into the region, building infrastructure and using a system that supports its companies and injects Chinese labor into regional markets. After more than a decade of relative inattention from the United States, China has begun to view Southeast Asia through its own version of the Monroe Doctrine.
All of Asia has welcomed China’s rise for the prosperity it can bring through new markets, new investment, and a new engine for Asian economic integration. At the same time, the rest of Asia has real concerns about China’s intentions. China’s handling of maritime territorial disputes from the South China Sea to the Senkaku Islands has triggered age-old regional anxieties about a regional hegemon with unclear intentions and values.
Killing OBL provides President Obama with the credibility to move on from Iraq and Afghanistan and refocus on the Asia Pacific where his genealogical credible aspirations to become the “first Pacific president” can find roots and flourish. Look to the United States to move to wind down war fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and continue to shift the Libya lift to NATO allies.
President George W. Bush described Southeast Asia as the “second front in the war on terror.” As we can see from the reactions of Southeast Asia’s leaders to the news of OBL’s demise, the threat from radicals in the region remains very real and there is hard-core, near-term vigilance aimed at preventing or foiling retribution attacks by these radicalized groups. However, President Obama is well aware of the useful efforts that have been made, starting under the Bush administration, to expand cooperation with regional militaries and counterterrorism colleagues ranging from the courts to civil society. It is time to fight terrorism in Asia locally and with community awareness and economic development. This new approach will complement American soft power and support an enduring renewal of U.S. engagement in the region.
This new approach and new focus on Asia should see resources redirected from hard power to soft power, from global warfare to local community building including expanding health care, education, entrepreneurial activity, and connectedness. America has the tools to support this shift, and the new fight will expose radicals as outsiders in their villages, communities, and countries. Al Qaeda in Southeast Asia will fear this type of approach far more than guns, drones, or grenades.
Osama bin Laden’s death is an important step to reasserting U.S. interests in the Asia Pacific, specifically and especially in Southeast Asia.
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The Week That Was
New U.S. ambassador to ASEAN David Carden arrived in Jakarta. David Carden arrived in Jakarta on April 26, 2011, officially becoming the first resident U.S. ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). After presenting his credentials to ASEAN secretary general Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, Ambassador Carden said, “The United States is committed at all levels to supporting a robust ASEAN role in realizing the vision of an integrated, secure, prosperous, and democratic Southeast Asia.” Dr. Surin used the occasion to point out that proactive re-engagement of the United States with ASEAN reflects the recognition of ASEAN’s growing role in addressing global issues. The United States is the second non-ASEAN country after Japan to permanently base a fully ASEAN-focused ambassador at the grouping’s Jakarta headquarters. Both the United States and Japan intend to use their presence in Jakarta to strengthen ties and the capabilities of the secretariat. The two countries are encouraging other partners to follow their example.
Burma seeks ASEAN Chair in 2014. In April 2011, Burma’s newly appointed foreign minister Wunna Maung Lwin asked ASEAN foreign ministers for their support to allow Burma to take on the role of ASEAN chair in 2014. Burma wants ASEAN leaders to make a decision at the upcoming ASEAN summit in Jakarta on May 7–8, 2011. The Obama administration expressed its concerns to ASEAN over the implications of allowing Burma to chair at a critical juncture. State Department spokesman Mark Toner noted that the United States “would have concerns about Burma in any kind of leadership role because of the country’s poor human rights record.” Policymakers around the region are discussing how ASEAN can sustain its central role in developing regional trade and security architecture as several of its smaller states, some with fewer diplomatic resources, are due to chair during 2012–2015. Cambodia is scheduled to host ASEAN in 2012 and Brunei in 2013.
EAST ASIA SUMMIT
Indonesian foreign minister: South China Sea dispute off EAS agenda. ASEAN foreign ministers reiterated that maritime border disputes would not be discussed during the East Asia Summit (EAS) in November this year, unless there are “further clashes in disputed territory.” Indonesia will chair the summit, and Indonesia’s foreign minister Marty Natalegawa said the EAS will address political and security issues but the South China Sea dispute will not be on the agenda. More generally, maritime security and “connectivity” is expected to be included in the discussion among leaders. Minister Marty said, “Whether those maritime issues include the South China Sea depends on where we are when the leaders meet.”
FREE TRADE AGREEMENTS AND TPP
Obama administration confident Congress will pass trade deals. U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said on April 20, 2011, the Obama administration is confident Congress would approve free trade agreements (FTAs) with South Korea, Panama, and Colombia, but in separate bills. Ambassador Kirk affirmed that technical discussions with lawmakers regarding the deals are under way. The vote for ratification is expected after mid-June. Some trade economists believe the Obama administration must push for approval of the trade pacts by July 2011 because that is when other international trade deals take effect, including the EU pact with South Korea and Canada’s deal with Colombia. If U.S. deals are not in place by then, U.S. exports to those countries will face a serious competitive disadvantage. Political analysts warn that if the FTAs are not passed before this summer, congressional representatives may lose their will to move on trade as the 2012 election season begins in earnest. Asian partners have made it clear that the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) is a litmus test by which they will measure American commitment to Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations.
SOUTH CHINA SEA
Chinese premier proposes joint development. In interviews with Malaysian and Indonesian media, China’s premier Wen Jiabao suggested disputant countries should jointly develop resources found in contested areas of the South China Sea. The premier claimed joint development was “in the interest of regional peace…and serves the interests of all claimant countries." However, Premier Wen rejected multilateral solutions to bilateral problems and reaffirmed China’s position that bilateral dialogues are the key to resolving the decades-long dispute. ASEAN nations have resisted the Chinese perspective, fearing they will be disadvantaged in negotiating directly with their enormous neighbor.
China accuses Philippines of “invading” Spratlys. In a note submitted on April 14, 2011, to the United Nations, China claimed the Philippines had invaded its territory by occupying the contested Kalayaan Island Group. China claims the group is part of its Nansha (Spratly) islands and denied the Philippines ever laid claims to the islands in international or domestic legislation before 1970. According to the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs, however, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) legitimizes the country’s claim and the government is within its rights to exercise sovereignty over the islands. The dispute underlines the need for all countries interested in regional security to ratify UNCLOS and be party to discussions establishing how its provisions should be implemented.
Political heavyweights urge Senate to ratify UNCLOS. In a New York Times op-ed, former deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage, former Coast Guard commandant Admiral Thad Allen, and former deputy secretary of defense, now CSIS president and CEO, Dr. John Hamre urged Congress to ratify the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) as soon as possible. UNCLOS is the “only legal framework that exists for managing international waters” and aligns with U.S. military interests, as it gives the U.S. Navy flexibility to operate in foreign exclusive economic zones and territorial seas. More important, ratifying UNCLOS would demonstrate America’s commitment to peacefully resolving territorial disputes in the South China Sea and signal support for a clear legal regime for the seas. The op-ed Odd Man Out at Sea: The United States and UNCLOS is also available on cogitASIA.
General election this week. On May 7, 2011, Singapore’s ruling party, the People’s Action Party (PAP), will face its largest electoral battle in a general election since 1965. For the first time, the opposition will contest the PAP in 26 of the 27 electoral constituencies. The only constituency that will be uncontested this year was controlled by the PAP team led by Mentor Minister Lee Kuan Yew. The opposition team that planned to contest in Mr. Lee’s Tanjong Pagar constituency submitted their forms 35 seconds after the deadline on nomination day and was disqualified. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that the candidates in this year’s election will form the 4th Generation leadership team for Singapore. Read CSIS’ Critical Questions on the Singapore election here. The surprisingly competitive election this year also signifies a political coming of age for Singapore. To learn more, read “A Door Cracks Open in the Little Red Dot” on cogitASIA.
General elections: Inflation, immigration, and house prices “hot-button” issues. Singapore’s rising cost of living and high levels of immigration are key issues for this year’s elections. Singapore’s consumer price index (CPI) increased 5 percent on a yearly comparison in March, with transportation costs surging by 13.4 percent. Housing costs rose by 7.1 percent. Meanwhile, the government has given permanent residence to hundreds of thousands of immigrants over the previous five years, which has led to a perception of increased competition for jobs, housing, and places in schools.
Manufacturing output rises 22 percent year-on-year in March. Singapore’s manufacturing output jumped 22 percent in March from a year earlier. The increase was due to a rebound in the biomedical sector, which rose by 57 percent. Other manufacturing sectors, such as precision engineering and electronics, saw modest increases. Economists say sustained growth is unlikely due to the unpredictability of the biomedical sector, higher commodity prices, and the effect of the Japanese earthquake and tsunamis on supply chains.
Former president Arroyo accused of misusing $12.3 million. On April 26, 2011, former solicitor general Frank Chavez filed a legal complaint against former Philippine president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo alleging she misused an overseas workers’ fund to boost her 2004 re-election campaign. The complaint claims Arroyo diverted about $12.3 million from the fund to pay for health cards with her image on them. The cards were distributed during her presidential campaign. The funds were intended to pay for repatriation of about nine million Filipinos who work abroad when they faced emergencies and or required medical care. Arroyo stepped down as president in June 2010 and now serves in the House of Representatives.
ill hold its general elections on May 7, 2011. President SR Nathan dissolved parliament
Asian Development Bank: Philippine economy to expand by 5% in 2011. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is bullish on its host country, the Philippines. ADB raised its growth projection for the Philippines to 5 percent in 2011, and 5.3 percent in 2012. The ADB predicted growth would be driven by investment and consumption as the government presses ahead with promised policy and governance reforms and public-private partnership projects. The report says rising fuel prices and robust aggregate demand will fuel inflation, which is expected to rise to 4.9 percent in 2011 but ease to 4.3 percent in 2012.
Mindanao peace talks. On April 27, 2011, the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) resumed formal peace talks with newly appointed Malaysian facilitator Tengku Dato AB Ghafar Tengku serving as the third-party mediator. What is new here is the Aquino administration and the Malaysians returning to the mediating role. It remains unclear whether either of those factors will result in new progress in the talks. During the meeting, Marvic Leonen, chair of the government panel, questioned the revised draft that the MILF submitted in the February meeting. The government agreed to submit its own draft comprehensive peace compact, and both sides agreed to hold the next meeting on June 27–28, 2011.
Indonesia plans to boost economy with $200 billion investment. Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) announced on April 18, 2011, that his government will invest $200 billion over the next 14 years to advance economic development. Initial plans were to invest $100 billion, but state-owned companies are now projected to invest that $100 billion themselves. According to the plans, the capital injected will create 6.6 million jobs nationwide.
Chinese premier Wen Jiabao visits Indonesia. Chinese premier Wen Jiabao visited Jakarta, Indonesia, and held talks with SBY from April 29 to April 30, 2011. The leaders discussed expanding cooperation on trade, defense, and maritime affairs. Trade has been a sticking point because Indonesia has voiced consistent concerns about implementation of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). Premier Wen said that his trip aimed to promote the use of the renminbi (RMB) as a currency for trade settlement in the region, highlighting the mutual expansion of financial institutions that could facilitate cross-border trade in the local currencies. Premier Wen also said China will speed up the development of transport connections with Southeast Asia. During his visit, Chinese companies signed investment deals worth $10 billion in various infrastructure, cement, property, and agriculture projects in Indonesia.
Chinese premier Wen Jiabao at the World Economic Forum in 2009
Cambodia and Thailand sign cease-fire after a week of fighting. Cambodia and Thailand reached a tentative cease-fire on April 28, 2011, after a week of fighting along their disputed border. The cease-fire was announced first by Cambodia and then confirmed by Thailand. Fifteen people, including one civilian, were killed during the fighting. To help resolve the dispute, Singapore expressed support for Indonesia’s efforts to facilitate a dialogue between the two countries and broker a peace agreement at the border.
Cambodia and Vietnam agree to enhance cooperation. At a bilateral meeting on April 23, 2011, Cambodia and Vietnam pledged to boost political and economic cooperation. Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen and his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Tan Dung agreed to resolve border demarcation issues before 2012. Their collective commitment is to agree on a border peacefully. The two prime ministers also agreed that construction of the Xayaburi dam in Laos could have negative consequences.
Timeline unconfirmed for elections. Earlier, according to House Speaker Chai Cidchob, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva had submitted a royal decree seeking to dissolve parliament to the Thai king. However, Prime Minister Abhisit confirmed on May 3, 2011, that he has not done so, saying, “There must be some sort of misunderstanding.” Back in March, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban predicted that the election would be held on July 1 or 2, pending a final decision by an election commission. He expected Prime Minister Abhisit to dissolve the House of Representatives by May 6. Elections would have to be held within 45 days after the dissolution of the House, according to electoral laws.
PTT to invest $1.1 billion. The state-owned oil and gas company Petroleum Authority of Thailand (PTT) received approval from the government to invest $1.1 billion in a new liquefied natural gas (LNG) pipeline. To meet growing energy demand, PTT aims to increase its terminal capacity by 500,000 tons. Gas usage is likely to continue to surge in Asia as countries struggle for greener options than coal and seek reassurances about planned nuclear capacity. Recently, the National Energy Policy Committee decided to postpone the country’s first nuclear power plant by another three years to 2023.
Thailand prepares to contest World Court. Prime Minister Abhisit announced that the Foreign Ministry is preparing a legal team and has retained legal counsel to deal with the 1962 ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the Preah Vihear temple. The ICJ found that the Temple of Preah Vihear was situated in territory under the sovereignty of Cambodia. Violence recently erupted over the border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia, resulting in 15 killed and forcing 60,000 villagers to evacuate.
The European Union and United States respond differently to Burma’s new government. While the United States recently announced that it is unwilling to engage in official ASEAN programs in 2014 if Burma assumes the chairmanship for that year, the European Union decided to suspend its freeze on assets and travel restrictions for high-ranking Burmese officers for one year. The move indicates a policy shift in Europe and leaves the United States taking the strongest line on Burma.
Burma announces amnesty to prisoners. Burma announced that it is preparing to grant amnesty to some prisoners, but it was unclear whether it would include political dissidents. The amnesty is expected to occur during President Thein Sein’s visit to Indonesia on May 5, 2011. There are currently 2,073 political prisoners in Burma held under vague laws frequently used to criminalize political activists.
Political moderate heads the economic section of advisory board. Burmese president Thein Sein nominated U Myint, a known political moderate and adviser to opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, as the new head of the government advisory board’s new economic section. U Myint is a former senior economist with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (UNESCAP). Given his record of criticism of the regime’s economic policies in the past, his nomination came as a surprise to Burma analysts. His appointment raises important questions about whether the junta is trying to move forward with economic reforms using the new government structure.
Burma claims massive natural gas reserves. Burma’s Ministry of Energy recently announced that the country has approximately 89.722 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves. This figure would mean that Burma has more reserves than the entire European Union. However, the United States Energy Information Agency believes that Burma’s reserves are closer to 10 trillion cubic feet.
Laos defers construction of the Xayaburi dam. Following concerns voiced by the international community, neighboring countries, and environmental activists, Laos agreed to defer the construction of the Xayaburi dam. Vietnam asked Laos to postpone construction by 10 years to allow time for more studies regarding the dam’s impact on communities. Pham Khoi Nguyen, chairman of the Mekong River Commission, said the Lao government has provided inadequate and unrealistic statistical data in its support for constructing the dam.
Laos holds legislative elections. On April 30, 2011, more than 3.2 million eligible voters cast their ballots in Laos to elect a new 132-member National Assembly, Laos’ legislative body. Voters attended more than 6,300 polling stations throughout the nation’s 17 constituencies to elect their favorite candidates. Although the people select their representatives, voters do not expect major, changes, as the ruling Lao People’s Revolutionary Party selects the candidates, who serve at its convenience.
Vietnam and Laos strengthen educational cooperation. Vietnam and Laos signed an educational cooperation project for 2011 to 2020 to elevate the quality of the two countries’ educational systems. The agreement was reached during a visit to Laos by Vietnam’s minister of education and training Pham Vu Luan. During the meeting, the Lao prime minister thanked Vietnam for assisting his country in all aspects, especially in education.
Central bank tightens controls on forex flows and investment. In an effort to restore confidence in the Vietnamese dong, Vietnam’s central bank passed new policies regulating foreign exchange flows and foreign investment in state-owned banks. If approved, Vietnamese nationals going abroad will be required to declare to customs authorities any amount over $5,000 (the current level is $7,000). Foreign investors seeking to buy 15 percent or more of a Vietnamese state-owned bank must prove assets totaling at least $20 billion in the year before they invest.
Toyota cuts Vietnam production by 70 percent. Toyota Motors, Vietnam’s largest automaker, reduced production in the country by 70 percent due to a slowdown in supply of parts from Japan resulting from the earthquake and tsunamis. Toyota announced similar production cuts to other Toyota affiliates in the region. Normal production is expected to resume June 3, 2011. Earlier in April, the company recalled 66,000 Innova model seven-seater minivans and Fortuner sports utility vehicles across Vietnam due to technical failures.
“Dragon Lady” Madame Ngo Dinh Nhu dies at age 86. Madame Ngo Dinh Nhu, the controversial former first lady of South Vietnam, passed away on April 27, 2011, in Rome, Italy, at the age of 86. The sister-in-law of South Vietnam president Ngo Dinh Diem, Madame Nhu was known for her sharp tongue. Referring to the self-immolation of monks protesting President Diem’s administration as a “barbecue,” she told reporters, “Let them burn and we shall clap our hands.” After her husband, security chief Ngo Dinh Nhu, and President Diem were assassinated in a November 1963 coup, Madame Nhu moved to Rome where she lived until her death.
World Bank admits fault. The Independent Evaluation Group of the World Bank assessing the development of Timor-Leste for the period 2000–2010 concluded that the country was still lagging behind its potential. The IEG blamed the World Bank for failing to relax its strict procurement rules when it came to building hospitals, which denied the country an adequate public health system. The report also said World Bank-funded schools distributed material in Portuguese when only 5 percent of the population spoke the language.
Wen visits Malaysia. Chinese premier Wen Jia Bao, leading a 118-member delegation that included four ministers, met with Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak on April 27, 2011 to boost bilateral relations. The leaders witnessed the signing of agreements on trade, investment, education, infrastructure, and telecommunications. Premier Wen also declared China would continue to import Malaysia’s crude palm oil. China is now Malaysia’s largest trading partner, and it imported $3.4 million tons of palm oil from Malaysia last year.
China should take lead on Asian currency. Malaysia deputy finance minister Donald Lim Siang Chai suggested China should take the lead on formulating a single currency for Asia. The minister noted that a unified currency could help diminish exchange rate instability and boost regional trade, but without China’s leadership, it would be hard for Asia to achieve this goal. Lim also said that with the implementation of the China -ASEAN Free Trade Area (CAFTA), the single currency would reduce trade-related transaction costs.
Rudd congratulates the U.S. on military operation. Australian foreign minister Kevin Rudd has congratulated the United States on executing the secret military operation that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Mr. Rudd, who met with U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton in Washington, D.C., on May 2, 2011, also re-affirmed Australia's troop commitment in Afghanistan.
Gillard in North Asia. Prime Minister Julia Gillard wrapped up a successful weeklong tour of North Asia (South Korea, Japan, and China) with a meeting with Chinese president Hu Jintao on April 27, 2011. Gillard and Chinese premier Wen Jiabao discussed the importance of their economic relationship. China is now Australia’s second-largest importer. While trade and investment was on the agenda, Prime Minister Gillard also raised the issue of human rights and North Korea. The two countries agreed to contribute $9 million to an Australia-China Science and Research Fund to promote joint research.
Australia budget pressures. The Australian national budget continues to labor under the impact of the global financial crisis and devastation wrought by recent floods and hurricanes. The government said it must make severe cuts to balance the budget. While the outlook for the mining and agriculture sectors remains solid, the strong Australian dollar will continue to pull down exports.
$7.7bn bid on Australian copper mine. Giant Canadian gold mining company Barrick Gold is diversifying into copper with its $7.7 billion bid for Equinox Minerals, an Australian copper mine. The bid knocked out China’s Minmental’s bid of $1 billion.
New Zealand and South Korea defense ministers in talks. New Zealand defense minister Wayne Mapp met his South Korean counterpart, Kim Kwan-jin, in Seoul on April 26, 2011. The two defense ministers agreed on closer cooperation, including on defense procurement. They also shared their views on regional security issues and agreed to establish cooperation by increasing personnel exchanges and working-level talks on defense policy.
NZ rejects OECD call for capital gains tax. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) noted that housing prices in New Zealand remain high while home ownership declines. The OECD holds responsible the taxation of rental property, which favors the wealthy, and said a capital gains tax would correct the market inconsistency. The government of New Zealand rejected this recommendation, indicating that state welfare payments already suffice.
Ambassador Mike Moore & Dr. Peter Watson on Dialog. New Zealand’s ambassador to the United States Mike Moore and Peter Watson, chair of American Friends of Christchurch, talked with CSIS senior adviser and Southeast Asia Program director Ernie Bower about rebuilding Christchurch and the strong Kiwi-American partnership forming to support long-term efforts. Ambassador Moore said rebuilding efforts have been hindered because builders cannot pour concrete foundations until no significant seismic movement has been detected for 21 days, a benchmark that has not been reached yet. To see the Dialog interview on iTunes click here. To donate to American Friends of Christchurch or to get involved in projects to rebuild the city, click here.
Booz & Company to study Brunei’s logistics systems. Booz & Company was hired to study Brunei’s transportation and logistics systems and identify opportunities to enhance the sultanate’s capabilities in becoming a regional logistics hub. Edward Clayton, principal consultant at Booz, noted the importance of logistics and transportation in diversifying Brunei’s economy away from oil and gas. He said that Brunei could position itself as a logistics hub and take advantage of increased trade flows brought about by the China-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).
Chinese delegation visits Brunei. A delegation from the All China Youth Federation visited Brunei the last week of April 2011 for a five-day working visit. The delegation consisted of representatives from two youth associations as well as key industry players from an investment company and a software company. The visit was part of a series of activities marking the 20th anniversary of the establishment of Sino-Bruneian ties.
Judicial independence. Papua New Guinea’s Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by the government and ExxonMobil over a purported mediation order to address landowner grievances about the liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant. The appellants did not want to pay the costs for the mediation process. However, the court declared that there was in fact no court order issued for mediation and that the appeal was baseless. The ruling indicates that LNG-related grievances against the state or developer will be handled on a case-by-case basis.
No progress in implementing APEC policies. Members attending the PNG APEC Review Seminar in Port Moresby have raised concerns about the country’s slowness in implementing its commitments to APEC trade and economic policies. Frank Aisi from the Department of the Prime Minister called for the establishment of a permanent and well-coordinated APEC office, saying that attending APEC workshops without results wasted taxpayers’ money.
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“Access to Opportunity in Southeast Asia,” OPIC conference on May 3–5, 2011, in Jakarta. Conference website.
“Reinventing ASEAN’s Potential: Seizing New Opportunities,” Asian Strategy & Leadership Institute 8th ASEAN Leadership Forum on May 8–9, May 2011, in Jakarta. Ernie Bower, senior adviser and director, CSIS Southeast Asia Program, will deliver a keynote address on the topic “Will the United States Engage in the Strategic Competition for Centrality in Asia?”
“Asia's Rising Energy and Commodity Nationalism,” NBR (National Bureau of Asian Research) 7th annual Energy Security Conference to be held May 4, 2011, in Washington, D.C. If you would like to request an invitation, please contact Dave Herron.
“Democracy, Political Change, and Global Governance in Asia: A Discussion with ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan,” organized by the Asia Program at the Wilson Center and the School of International Service, American University, on May 19, 2011. Please RSVP here.
“Concepts for the East Asia Summit: Connectivity, Security, and ASEAN Centrality,” a seminar by the CSIS Southeast Asia Program and Japan External Trade Organization to be held at CSIS on May 20. Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, Secretary General, ASEAN Secretariat, will be one of the key speakers. For more details, please contact the Southeast Asia Program.
“Pacific Night,” an annual showcase of Pacific culture, food, entertainment, and ideas, organized by the embassies and missions of Pacific Island countries and territories based in Washington and New York. This year’s showcase will take place at the New Zealand Embassy in Washington on the evening of June 22. It will begin with a seminar on "The Future of the Pacific," featuring a panel of speakers from a variety of backgrounds, followed by a reception featuring entertainers and national dishes from countries around the Pacific region. For more information, contact Michael Appleton, Second Secretary at the New Zealand Embassy.
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