January 16, 2018        Reading Time: 2 minutes

Your weekly digest of foreign policy commentary:

Reading Time: 2 min read

As Singapore takes over as chair of ASEAN in 2018, Joseph Incalcaterra looks at the drivers of ASEAN’s growth. Image credit – joyfull / depositphotos.



Optimistic 2018 Outlook for Southeast Asia but Hurry on Economic Integration, Channel NewsAsia, by Joseph Incalcaterra, Chief ASEAN Economist at HSBC

“We must, therefore, ask ourselves what can be done to preserve ASEAN’s competitive advantage, particularly in high-end manufacturing. Cue ASEAN integration.”

  • Joseph Incalcaterra analyses the economic prospects of ASEAN in 2018 and argues that greater ASEAN integration is required to sustain growth in the region.
    • The three main drivers of ASEAN growth will be the electronics supply chain, domestic consumption, and infrastructure investment.
    • China’s industrial upgrading will challenge ASEAN’s electronics supply chains; Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam are all plugged into Asia’s electronics supply chain, albeit in vastly different capacities.
    • A way to preserve ASEAN’s competitive advantage, particularly in high-end manufacturing, is stronger ASEAN integration. ASEAN should (1) maintain production centres across the region, and (2) reduce barriers to cross-border services and investment, which would facilitate regional growth.



The Best Hope for the Iranian People, Project Syndicate, Geoffrey Hoon, former United Kingdom Minister of Defense

“Iran is at a turning point. The world must now send its regime a clear message: stop destabilizing the region and help your own people to prosper.”

  • Geoffrey Hoon explains the implications of protests in Iran and urges the West to use the protests as an opportunity to encourage Iran to suspend its regional ambitions. He notes that:
    • The protesters are unlikely to succeed as they lack leadership and clear objectives. Furthermore, the Iranian security forces have too much at stake in the current governance system to allow the regime to collapse.
    • However, the status quo of poor economic conditions cannot continue. The Iranian government needs to improve domestic conditions or else risk facing larger and more organised protests.
    • Nonetheless, the West has an opportunity to use economic incentives, like the lifting of sanctions, to steer Iran’s foreign policy in the region. However, this strategy would only work if Hassan Rouhani retains the presidency or another moderate takes his place.

Written by Hasitha Jayatilake and edited by Anishka De Zylva.

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