ASEAN unity key to trade

Past trade tensions between the US and Japan and voluntary trade measures take could serve as a lesson for current fractures between the US and China.
Deepening ASEAN unity and economic integration will be key to bolstering the 10-member regional bloc amid escalating trade tensions between US and China.  Participants in a panel on the geopolitics of trade highlighted at the World Forum on ASEAN.
They called for countries in the region to strengthen collaborative resilience.
Ignatius Darell Leiking, minister of international trade and industry of Malaysia, said the trade troubles provide a good moment for economic introspection and recalibration.
“Work as a single ASEAN, to trade between ourselves and make it seamless between ourselves. That could reduce the impact that is forthcoming because of this tariff war.”

Déjà vu

“What’s happening now between the US and China is a kind of déjà vu for me,” noted Yasuo Tanabe, SVP and Senior Corporate Officer at Hitachi, Japan.
Back in the 70s and 80s, the US often pressured Japan on trade issues.  Japan negotiated on many issues in almost all sectors.
Most importantly, he emphasised that there are solutions.
Tanabe said the solutions included both voluntary export restraint and import expansion, which 30 years ago helped calm trade stresses.
Acknowledging the uncertainty about whether existing pressures will be short, medium or long term, Victor L. L. Chu, chairman and CEO of First Eastern Investment Group, Hong Kong SAR, China, said there is also an upside.
“If you look at the silver lining, it is an opportunity for us to look at our competitive advantages.
“Hong Kong and ASEAN signed a free trade agreement last November and that is very interesting.
“Hong Kong wants to be more than a China bridge; we want to be at the centre of Asia looking at a closer relationship with Japan, with ASEAN, while at the same time contributing to China’s road and bridge initiative.”

No time to waste

With much speculation about what is on the economic horizon, Minister Leiking warned that there is no time to waste.
“ASEAN leaders must embrace the reality that a solution is needed now, and from within, despite the differences in the region’s economic development.
“ASEAN negotiators should have in their mind that the intention is to see their neighbours prosper.
“If all our neighbours prosper together whereby we help each other, provide input into how to develop our countries, in an equal way, then we’ll be alright.”

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