Regional Roundup for Week of 6.21.19

EXSE FOCUS

Too little, too late for US ‘recommitment’ to Mekong countries? China’s already there – This Week in Asia US officials say Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will “recommit” the United States to supporting the five countries along Southeast Asia’s longest river, the Mekong, when he makes his first duty visit to Bangkok in July. // The China-led initiative has set aside $22billion. For the economic pillars – energy & infrastructure cooperation – of U.S. “recommitment” to the Mekong, robust private financial flows from U.S. and partner countries are essential. How to attract private sector investors, who are driven by the ESG investment, through tangible & strong policy supports is a key for U.S. government.

11 Million People Now Have Jobs In Renewable Energy – Forbes Eleven million people around the world were employed by the renewable energy sector in 2018, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) reports in the sixth edition of their Renewable Energy and Jobs series. // Many job creations occurred especially in Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. The Southeast Asian policymakers see a new evidence that renewable energy becomes more attractive than before in terms of its environmental, economic, social benefits. Moreover, increasing number of experienced workers means renewable energy manufacturing and installation would be more efficient; a virtuous circle around productivity and renewable penetration is expected. 

REGIONAL RELATIONS

US-China trade war’s pains and gains: Investment floods Vietnam but exposes limits of its economy – The Straits Times As the US-China trade war rages on, companies have started moving their production bases from China to South-east Asia to avoid American tariffs. While the shift has given an economic boost to countries like Vietnam and Cambodia, suppliers face challenges such as infrastructure bottlenecks and a lack of skilled labor in these fledgling economies.

Related: Southeast Asia set to gain from trade war business relocations – Nikkei Asian Review

State Counselor to Attend ASEAN Summit in Thailand on June 22-23 – The Irrawaddy State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will attend the 34th ASEAN Summit in Thailand on June 22-23. Southeast Asian leaders will discuss issues of regional importance including marine pollution and disaster prevention while seeking to boost economic and security ties with Japan and the US.

Great Expectations: ASEAN and the Indo-Pacific Concept – The Diplomat As ASEAN gets closer to finally releasing its vision for the Indo-Pacific, its role in the region hangs in the balance.

Japan says G-20 summit to debate trade including WTO reform – The Straits Times Substantial discussions on trade, including reform of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), will likely take place at a summit of Group of 20 (G-20) major economies next week in Osaka, a senior Japanese Finance Ministry official said on Wednesday (June 19).

Japan goes long on Myanmar – East Asia Forum Japan is playing a central role in assisting Myanmar’s ongoing financial reforms and attempts to achieve industrialisation. Japan is interested in Myanmar from both an industrial and a financial perspective, while Burmese officials see Japan as a natural partner for financial cooperation.

As Summit Season Begins, ASEAN Has Many Issues to Address – The Irrawaddy When ASEAN organizes big meetings, the tendency for the host is to talk up a brouhaha. So it goes with the 34th ASEAN Summit under Thailand’s rotating chairmanship this year.

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

G-20 agrees on marine plastic pollution deal – The Straits Times The Group of 20 major economies said they agreed on a deal to reduce plastic waste that is choking the seas at a meeting in Japan on Sunday (June 16).

Where does your plastic go? Global investigation reveals America’s dirty secret – Guardian A Guardian report from 11 countries tracks how US waste makes its way across the world – and overwhelms the poorest nations.

Related: Indonesia Becomes Latest Southeast Asian Country to Return Waste to the West – The Irrawaddy

Related:SE Asia Should Ban Imports of Foreign Trash: Environmentalists – The Irrawaddy

As Cambodia swelters, climate-change suspicion falls on deforestation – Mongabay Cambodia has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world, with key drivers including demand for timber products, land-use conversion, and urbanization.Extreme temperatures have led to public criticism linking deforestation to unusually hot weather.

Urbanisation, commercial farms threaten Asia’s forests, UN warns – Bangkok Post Sprawling urban areas and expanding plantations are placing greater pressure on forests and resources in Asia-Pacific, hurting rural communities and exacerbating the effects of climate change, the United Nations food agency said on Tuesday.

Trade openness is critical to securing Asia’s food against climate change – East Asia Forum Food security is a chronic problem. In the Asia Pacific region, the sheer magnitude of the challenge, and the complexity of addressing it in a region with nearly 60 per cent of the world’s population means that ensuring food security is never far from policymakers’ attention.

CHINA

Asian Insider June 17: The China syndrome – The Straits News Singapore, the world’s most trade dependent economy, has reported that non-oil domestic exports (Nodx) slipped 15.9 per cent year on year in May, the biggest drop in more than three years as electronic exports plunged.

New Chinese Ambassador Vows to Seek ‘Practical Cooperation’ with Myanmar on BRI Projects – Bangkok Post China’s new ambassador to Myanmar said he would push for deeper “practical cooperation” on Beijing’s grand infrastructure projects in the country while working to advance bilateral relations.

China could build 30 ‘Belt and Road’ nuclear reactors by 2030: Official – The Straits Times China could build as many as 30 overseas nuclear reactors through its involvement in the “Belt and Road” Initiative over the next decade, a senior industry official told a meeting of China’s political advisory body this week.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Ministry sticks to plan to help palm growers – Bangkok Post Despite criticism, the Commerce Ministry stays committed to calling on retailers to mark up prices of cooking palm oil to reflect higher costs, in part to help boost domestic oil palm prices.

Related: Palm oil price hike is unwise – Bangkok Post

Malaysia PM Mahathir takes aim at international community over anti-palm oil narrative – Channel News Asia  Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Monday (Jun 17) hit out at the international community’s negative perceptions of the palm oil industry, while stating that palm oil cultivation has not affected his country’s ecosystem.

Indonesian seaweed farmers seek B4.3bn from PTT over oil spill in Australia – Bangkok Post Indonesian seaweed farmers were set to seek more than A$200 million (4.3 billion baht) from Thailand’s PTT Exploration and Production in a trial starting on Monday, to cover damage they say they suffered after Australia’s worst oil spill.

Philippines Most Exposed To Climate Change Risks – Study – Investvine The Philippines is topping the list of countries facing the highest risk of climate change hazards, according to the latest Global Peace Index released by Australia-based independent think tank Institute for Economics and Peace.

Myanmar and Lao to get infrastructure boost – The ASEAN POST Myanmar and Lao PDR look to be the biggest winners of an ASEAN plan to boost connectivity with a series of infrastructure projects.

Solutions sought for Mekong Delta’s sustainable development – Vietnam Plus A conference was held in Ho Chi Minh City on June 18 to review two years since the implementation of Resolution No.120/NQ-CP on sustainable development of the Mekong Delta in adaptation with climate change.

‘Small civic voice’ at big Asean Summit – Bangkok Post Representatives of civic groups are calling on Asean leaders to give them a voice in the region after their latest proposal for meetings with the leaders and senior officials at the Asean Summit this week was again rejected.

World Bank Puts Myanmar’s Power Investment Needs at $2B a Year – The Irrawaddy To sustain economic growth, Myanmar needs to invest up to US$2 billion (3.06 trillion kyats) annually in its electricity sector, according to a World Bank report released on Tuesday.

Climate crisis stares Mekong Delta closer in the face – Vietnam Plus Vietnam’s Mekong Delta faces many climate change problems, but these have exacerbated at a much faster pace than predicted.

Business Environment Index Shows Transparency a Major Challenge to SME Growth – The Irrawaddy The Asia Foundation recently published its first Myanmar Business Environment Index 2019 (MBEI), offering Myanmar’s Union, state and regional governments a base of information with which to begin pursuing widespread and decentralized economic governance reforms.

Myanmar’s Electricity Minister Reduces Workload Due to Illness – The Irrawaddy Union Minister for Electricity and Energy U Win Khine is on medical leave.

Foreign investment soars as trade war escalates – Bangkok Post Foreign investment into Thailand surged in the first quarter, further evidence that Southeast Asian nations are benefiting as businesses seek new locations in the region to avoid an escalating US-China trade war.

Related: May exports down 5.8% on trade war, baht – Bangkok Post

3 Thai universities boost global ranking – Bangkok Post Three out of eight Thai universities have improved their standing in the QS World University Rankings for 2020.

Thailand’s $13 Billion Plan Could Woo 65 Million Tourists Yearly – Bloomberg Thailand is already struggling to cope with the environmental impact of a tourism boom that’s expected to lure 40 million visitors this year. The influx is on course to hit 65 million a decade from now, signaling an even bigger challenge ahead.

This week’s news digest was curated by Hiroshi Yasui.



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