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The Haze and ASEAN: Environmental Politics, Diplomacy and Stability

By Yang Razali Kassim

2 July 2013

The haze problem that was threatening to worsen into a new regional crisis appears to have been somewhat defused for now. If diplomacy fails to overcome environmental politics in the longer run, will the region lose faith in its largest member Indonesia?


IF PRESIDENT Yudhoyono’s unilateral apology to Singapore and Malaysia over the haze last week came as a surprise, the domestic criticisms he provoked for doing so were equally unexpected. It was threatening to become yet another regional crisis.

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Julia's Jihad

Book Review: Julia's Jihad

By Roy Simson

1 July 2013

When Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono came to power in 2004, the general consensus was that he was the best thing to happen to Indonesia since the fall of Soeharto.

Today, it is hard to find anyone with much praise for SBY. Many Indonesians are yearning for a “strong-man” president and believe that ex-general Prabowo Subianto, whose troops oversaw the abduction, torture and “disappearance” of pro-democracy activists, is the best man for the job.

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Myanmar inter-religious violence

Inter-Religious Violence in Myanmar: A Security Threat to Southeast Asia

By Eliane Coates

27 June 2013

Continuing inter-religious violence in Myanmar is spilling over into neighbouring countries as seen in recent attacks between groups within the Myanmar migrant community in Kuala Lumpur. If left unchecked, such spillovers will pose a threat to Southeast Asian security and stability.


RENEWED VIOLENCE between Buddhists and Muslims in Myanmar appears to be spreading regionally. Since May 2013, at least eight people have died in a series of retaliatory attacks by Muslims from Myanmar against Myanmar Buddhists in Kuala Lumpur which has a community of Myanmar refugees and illegal workers.

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Transatlantic Trade Partnership

Questioning the Transatlantic Trade Partnership

By Pierre Defraigne

18 June 2013

On the 14th of June, the EU Council of Ministers will likely issue a mandate to the
Commission for the negotiation of a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)
with the US. The TTIP comes at the end of a succession of bilateral free-trade deals
concluded between the EU and emerging economies yet its features and implications are quite
different to former such agreements. On these grounds there is undoubtedly a need for an in-depth political debate on the issue.

The TTIP: a destabilising deal

It is important to acknowledge the distinction between the TTIP and previous bilateral trade
agreements. Firstly, there is a power asymmetry between the US and the EU. The partnership
is between a large, fully-fledged and united player on the one hand, and a player of
comparable size, but still nursing an incomplete single market, an unbalanced euro zone and a
nascent foreign policy falling short of a common defence system on the other.

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EU- Southeast Asia

Overview of EU Trade Policy in Southeast Asia

By Lena Muxfeldt

11 June 2013

This policy briefing provides an overview of European Union (EU) trade policy in Southeast Asia. Examining current and forthcoming free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations in the context of the Europe 2020 strategy and the shift to bilateral negotiations, the briefing focuses mainly on the current state of play of FTA negotiations with Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia. In addition, it gives an update on the trade relations between the EU and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and individual members who are not yet engaged in bilateral trade negotiations with the EU.

EU trade policy

Although the EU remains committed to multilateralism in trade and the Doha Development Agenda, its current trade policy has shifted towards pursuing bilateral FTAs. In addition to interregional and multilateral efforts, the EU is now also pushing for bilateral economic arrangements. This shift has been due to numerous factors, including difficulties in multilateral trade negotiations, the development of American trade policy and domestic changes within the EU.

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HK Macau PRC

Hong Kong and Macau’s return to China – blessing or curse?

By Julia Marie Ewert

10 June 2013

It is a generation since Hong Kong and Macau were returned to China. How has the situation developed since 1999 in the two Special Administrative Regions (SAR) – and how do locals feel about their relationship with mainland China? Recent tensions between Hong Kong citizens and mainland Chinese have made headlines in Western media. Issues such as rich mainlanders buying up expensive apartments, birth tourism and milk powder shortages have led to a debate about ‘civilized behaviour’. But this is Hong Kong. Attitudes towards mainland China in Macau are more positive as I discovered during a recent trip to the region.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong is one of the richest cities in the world. Its port is one of the busiest on the globe and the Hong Kong dollar is the eighth most traded currency. In particular before the return to China, Hong Kong served as an important gateway for China to the West. Until 2001, around 50% of FDI in China came from Hong Kong and Hong Kong served as a motor for development.

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ASEM Member Countries

Exploring Ideas on ASEM's Future

By Shada Islam

5 June 2013

Ever since the first high-profile Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Bangkok in March 1996, Asian and European leaders, ministers and officials have been working on myriad fronts to forge a stronger region-to-region partnership on issues as diverse as green growth, global peace and prosperity, human rights, education and urbanisation.

Their work may not always make the headlines. And the progress they make can appear slow, plodding and incremental. ASEM participants often complain that their work is not visible to the public, that ASEM does not punch its weight in the over-crowded field of global cooperation platforms and that 17 years after its launch amid much fanfare, ASEM is in need of a new lease of life.

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Myanmar's Moment

Myanmar’s Moment: Unique Opportunities, Major Challenges

By McKinsey Global Institute

5 June 2013

Myanmar is a highly unusual but promising prospect for businesses and investors — an underdeveloped economy with many advantages, in the heart of the world’s fastest-growing region. Home to 60 million inhabitants (46 million of working age), this Asian nation has abundant natural resources and is close to a market of half a billion people. And the country’s early stage of economic development gives it a “greenfield” advantage: an opportunity to build a “fit for purpose” economy to suit the modern world.

Managed well, Myanmar could conceivably quadruple the size of its economy, from $45 billion in 2010 to more than $200 billion in 2030 — creating upward of ten million nonagricultural jobs in the process.

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Ethnic Tensions Myanmar

Will Ethnic Tensions Undermine US Myanmar Relations?

By Jim Della-Giacoma

26 May 2013

The meeting yesterday between presidents Barack Obama and Thein Sein may have been more symbolic than substantive, but it is an important step towards a normal relationship for the United States and Myanmar. It will deepen the engagement of the two countries and move them closer to the broader partnership they want as the transition in the country Washington still calls Burma faces some grave internal challenges.

When Thein Sein took office at the end of March 2011, his inaugural address outlining an ambitious reform agenda was received with scepticism in the United States. But as he brought Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi over to his side, this tone began to change. The April 2012 by-elections saw the National League of Democracy enter Parliament as the largest non-government party.

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CCP Training School

Inside the CCP Training School

By Fraser Cameron, Director

10 May 2013

Think of a Chinese Communist Party re-education training school and the mind conjures a Mao-suited party official haranguing Party members sitting with blank faces. Wrong. On a recent lecture tour of China, I was invited to observe the closing session of a week-long training course for Party members who had been living and working overseas.

I had thought the meeting might be in an austere location in keeping with socialist traditions. To my surprise, it was held in a five star hotel in downtown Shanghai. The cuisine was worthy of a Michelin star.

The next surprise was the delegates. All in their 30s or 40s, they were smartly dressed in the latest fashions and would have slotted into a top New York or Paris restaurant without anyone batting an eyelid.

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