Regional Roundup for Week of 5.10.18

EXSE FOCUS

Roping in China to deal with challenges of the Mekong–The Third Pole In a candid interview, the head of Mekong River Commission, Pham Tuan Phan, talks about how important it is to involve China to sustainably develop the river basin.

Malaysia election: Opposition scores historic victory–BBC Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has scored a historic victory in the general election. The election commission said Mr Mahathir’s opposition alliance had won 115 seats, over the threshold of 112 seats needed to form a government. The BN and its major party, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), have dominated Malaysian politics since the country won independence from Britain in 1957, but the once-powerful coalition has seen its popularity decline in recent years.// Malaysia’s first democratic transition is a shock to the world. It is also could serve as a blow to the soft dictatorships holding onto power in the region. This critical change may influence Malaysia’s neighbors with elections in the near term.

                    Related: Malaysia election 2018: everything you need to know–The guardian 

Leaders of China, Japan and South Korea Will Work Together on Denuclearizing North Korea–TIME China, Japan and South Korea agreed Wednesday to cooperate on ending North Korea’s nuclear program and promoting free trade, two hot-button issues challenging their region.

Related: Japan, China, South Korea put on united front on North Korea and free trade at trilateral summit–The Straits Times

Is EU’ Carding Forcing Vietnam to Address Illegal Fishing?–Global Policy The threat of a bad report card from the European Union has alarmed the more than 30,000 Vietnamese commercial traditional trawlers considered at risk of being deemed uncooperative in the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. With EU officials expected to return to Vietnam next week for a reassessment of Vietnam’s violations, the fishing industry has been fast-tracking measures to correct its marine practices.

Mekong River nations face the hidden costs of China’s dams–Nikkei Asian Review China’s controversial dam building — both on its section of the river upstream and, increasingly, in Southeast Asia — is dramatically changing the livelihoods of many of the 60 million people living in the region who depend on the Mekong for water, fish, transportation and irrigation.

 

REGIONAL RELATIONS

Singapore and Brazil sign pact to avoid double taxation–Channel NewsAsia  Singapore and Brazil have signed an accord to avoid double taxation, the two countries said in a joint statement on Tuesday (May 8). The two nations have also initiated discussions on a free trade agreement between Singapore and MERCOSUR, which comprises member states Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay.

Is the South China Sea Dispute a Foregone Conclusion?The Diplomat The security temperature in the South China Sea (SCS) has ratcheted precipitously in recent weeks. On May 2, news outlet CNBC reported U.S. intelligence that China has installed anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missiles on three fortified outposts in the Spratly Islands.

Reflecting on the ASEAN-Australia relationship–The Independent The ASEAN–Australia Dialogue and the ASEAN–Australia Special Summit reflect a recent trend: the growing recognition that Australia has to find a way to get along better with its neighbours for a variety of reasons. Australia’s prosperity is intimately tied to the security, stability and prosperity of its neighbourhood. Non-traditional security threats to Southeast Asia and the South Pacific are increasingly understood as being linked to the security and prosperity of Australia itself.

Vietnam-Korea FTA gives boost to two-way trade–Viet Nam News The Vietnam-Korea Free Trade Agreement (VKFTA), which took effect on December 20, 2015, has played an important role in attracting investments from the South Korea to Việt Nam and helping the Southeast Asian nation integrate deeper into the regional economy.

China agrees to increase palm oil imports from Indonesia–The Jakarta Post President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang agreed on Monday to bolster trade between their two countries, including to increase Indonesia’s crude palm oil (CPO) exports to China. “Premier Li Keqiang has especially agreed to increase [Indonesia’s] palm oil exports to China by up to 500,000 tons [per year],” Jokowi said in a joint statement after the meeting on Monday.

Related: Indonesia needs China more than China needs Indonesia: Jakarta Post columnist–The Strait Times

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Is certification enough to protect Southeast Asia’s forests?–Eco-Business Agroforestry experts say certification schemes are ”far from perfect” in ensuring sustainable practices. Their value, and how they can be improved, will be debated at the 5th Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources this month.

Investment floods into Mekong Delta–Nikkei Asian Review The Mekong Delta once sheltered Viet Cong guerrillas as they battled U.S. forces during the Vietnam War. Today the area is the country’s “rice bowl,” providing half of the national rice supply. It is also becoming an increasingly attractive investment destination for domestic and foreign companies.// Facilitating renewable energy development in the Mekong Delta is a feasible solutions to tackling the threats of hydropower dams to Delta productivity.

ASEAN’s active role in the greening of growth–The Business Times Sustainability issues are still often seen as long-term concerns, rather than requiring urgent attention, despite the Paris agreement to take action to address climate change. Within the ASEAN, there have also been transboundary challenges – such as the fires and haze of past years – that question countries’ real commitment to implementing sustainability pledges.

Getting ready for the ASEAN smart cities network–Khmer Times At the 32nd Asean Summit last month, Singapore introduced the Asean Smart Cities Network (ASCN) as one of the key deliverables. The ASCN is aimed at being prepared for the security and socio-economic implications arising from changing centres of urban populations. // If the smart cities network which comprises 26 cities in the region succeeds, ASEAN can enhance its integration and regional development.

Coral Triangle at risk–The ASEAN Post The Coral Triangle, a marine region stretching across Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Timor Leste, is endangered by extensive human activities. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), this marine region encompasses portions of two biogeographic regions: the Indonesian-Philippines Region, and the Far Southwestern Pacific Region, endowing it with the world’s richest marine biodiversity.

Indonesia moves towards smart building–The ASEAN Post Indonesia is one of the largest countries in the world in terms of both land area and population. Over the past five years, Indonesia’s urban population has increased by 53.5 percent, more than half of its total, according to Statistics Indonesia. As such, the Republic is now looking at the construction of buildings that are energy-efficient so as to minimise negative environmental impacts and to be more cost-effective in both the short and long run.

Field notes from ”Cambodia’s beating heart”–Conservation International Nicknamed Cambodia’s “beating heart,” the vast Tonle Sap Lake is Southeast Asia’s largest. Now, the country is trying to stop the loss of its lifeblood: the fish that thrive in these waters.

Listening to women’s voices in Vietnam’s energy debate–Eco-Business Vietnamese activist Khanh Nguy Thi knew early on that depending on coal to meet the country’s growing demand for energy would be a disaster for its people and the environment. She also knew that listening to women in the villages, and involving government officials in the conversation, were key to a greener future for the Southeast Asian country.

CHINA

US-China talks end in increased tension and demand for $200bn trade deficit cut–The guardian Talks in Beijing between Steven Mnuchin and Liu He end in ‘significant disagreements over certain issues’ Tensions between the US and China increased on Friday as it emerged US officials had handed Beijing a list of demands including a $200bn cut in its trade deficit and an end to state subsidies on strategic industries.

      Related: The Greater Danger of US-China Trade Tensions–The Diplomat 

                  Related: US and China’s trade clash to take centre stage at WTO–South China Morning Post 

Kim-Xi summit sends signal to Trump about China’s key roleThe Washington Post  The surprise China-North Korea summit this week is intended to ensure that Beijing’s voice is heard when North Korean leader Kim Jong Un holds a historic meeting with President Donald Trump. Chinese President Xi Jinping wants to protect his country’s strategic interests on the Korean Peninsula, particularly when it comes to maintaining a friendly regime in Pyongyang as a buffer from the U.S. and South Korean forces stationed across the 38th parallel.

Who Can Go The Distance In Alibaba And Tencent’s Battle For Southeast Asia And India?–Forbes Two of China’s internet giants, Alibaba Group and Tencent Holdings, having consolidated their positions at home, are now competing intensely for users and market share outside China – the key battlegrounds are Southeast Asia and India, but which company will come out on top?

China launches new Earth observation satellite for environmental monitoring–Xinhua China on Wednesday launched Gaofen-5, a hyperspectral imaging satellite, as part of the country’s high-resolution Earth observation project. According to Tong Xudong, chief designer of the Gaofen series, Gaofen-5 is the first China-developed satellite that can monitor air pollution. It can dynamically reflect the state of air pollution in China through the monitoring of air pollutants, greenhouse gases, and aerosols.

Singapore, China to work together on environment–The Straits Times Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli has met his Chinese counterparts to discuss ways the two countries can work together to strengthen cooperation on environmental protection and collaborate through bilateral platforms.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Myanmar’s ambitious new president pushing for changes to military-drafted constitution–Southeast Asia Globe Magazine Newly appointed President Win Myint’s strident talk of amending Myanmar’s military-drafted constitution has set the former speaker on a collision course with the nation’s most heavily entrenched interests

ASEAN Meets, But Remains Mostly Silent on Major Regional Issues–CFR Last weekend, leaders of the ten Southeast Asian members of ASEAN, the major regional organization, held their summit in Singapore. So far, however, the most pressing regional issues continue to divide ASEAN, and the organization has not been able to bridge its internal gaps, and to get beyond its traditional consensus style, which almost always hampers it in addressing complex security or rights issues in one member-state.

Lawmakers Urge Yangon Govt for Transparency in Development Projects–The Irrawaddy Lawmakers from the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party urged the Yangon regional government to stick to rules and regulations when carrying out development projects. Six lawmakers discussed on Monday the government’s proposal on urban development projects funded by local and international investment in Yangon from 2018-21, including transportation infrastructure, housing and economic development projects totaling more than 1.3 trillion kyats.

Climate change and education agreements inked during Laos President’s state visit–The Straits Times Singapore and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic inked an agreement on Wednesday evening (May 9) to fight climate change and enhance sustainable development. These will be achieved through policy exchanges, workshops, seminars and private sector projects.

Vietnam asks China to withdraw missiles from South China Sea–The Washington Post Vietnam has requested that China withdraw its military equipment from South China Sea outposts, saying its deployment seriously violates Hanoi’s sovereignty, increases tension and destabilizes the region.

Southeast Asia’s burgeoning infrastructure market defies borders–Nikkei Asian Review Southeast Asian engineering groups are looking beyond national borders for opportunities in a region forecast to need about $180 billion a year in infrastructure investment through 2030.

 

YUNNAN

Sichuan, Yunnan sites of experimental earthquake prediction network–GoKunming China began an ambitious seismic prediction pilot program this week in hopes of creating a national earthquake warning network. Experimental work on the system will be conducted in Sichuan and Yunnan provinces, and include installing a huge web of interconnected sensors designed to measure “stress and energy dynamics” deep below the surface of the earth.

TAIWAN

Taiwan welcomes Japan as investment partner in Southeast Asia: VP–Focus Taiwan Taiwan looks forward to advancing cooperation with Japan and welcomes the country as an investment partner in Southeast Asia, Vice President Chen Chien-jen said Tuesday. Chen said Taiwan and Japan should work together to broaden exchanges with those countries. Taiwan’s technology supply chain, combined with Japan’s expertise in research and development, could help to create win-win scenarios for all parties, he added. // Taiwan and Japan’s soft power can help Southeast Asia in industry innovation.

 

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