Amid great power competition, Asean has big opportunities: Ex-Indonesian minister Mari Pangestu

1 year ago 57

WASHINGTON – Asean needs to reinforce open regionalism, and develop a long-term low carbon vision, to take advantage of opportunities or risk member states drifting apart, says former Indonesian minister Mari Pangestu.

With open regionalism, Asean will engage all countries who accept its rules, without discrimination against any other - unlike the exclusive trade and investment club under close regionalism.

“If we really believe in the relevance of Asean, and the centrality of Asean, then Asean is really one of the potential middle powers that can actually navigate this,” Dr Pangestu said in The Straits Times’ Asian Insider podcast.

“You don’t want to be pulled either from the China side, or the US side, or (having) other countries saying this should be your regional order,” she said. “We should really take charge of how we should be looking at this.”

This means Asean is not exclusive to either China or the United States, but engages both countries and other powers big and small, inviting them to be part of its regional economic integration, alongside political cooperation, she said.

“This…would make Asean the epicentrum of growth…providing a potential way forward, which will preserve open regionalism, but at the same time, contribute to multilateralism.”

An avowed “Aseanist”, Dr Pangestu is the outgoing managing director of development policy and partnerships at the World Bank in Washington. She was Indonesia’s minister of trade from 2004 to 2011, and minister of tourism and creative economy from 2011 to 2014.

Dr Pangestu noted the potential concern that each Asean member state will go its own way because of national interest, making its own bilateral and regional deals.

“That would be very negative for the potential of Asean... to be a region...

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