Think Tank (2/2024)
(L-R) RSIS Asst Prof Lee Su-Hyun, Chief Economist at OCBC Bank Selena Ling, Head of CMS, Karen Pitakdumrongkit
< Back
Navigating Global Challenges: ASEAN’s Responses to the Changing Strategic and Economic Landscape
29 Feb 2024

How can ASEAN’s regional cooperation initiatives thrive amid an uncertain and dynamic geopolitical environment? The Centre for Multilateralism Studies (CMS) of RSIS explored this question in its annual workshop held on 29 February 2024. This year’s workshop consisted of three panel discussions that aimed to evaluate the prospects for multilateralism in today’s challenging climate, that is further complicated by trends in industrial policy, digitalisation, and sustainable economic development.

The first panel mapped the current state of the global political and economic environment. Panellists discussed how the intensifying strategic competition between the United States and China has become a hurdle to ASEAN’s centrality to regional affairs. This has been felt in both the security and economic domains, where the US’s pursuit of minilateral security arrangements and industrial policy has affected ASEAN’s confidence-building measures as well as its trade activities and investment flows.

The second panel tackled the future of the ASEAN digital community. As ASEAN’s digital economy continues to grow, a need to address inequities in digital infrastructure, digital literacy, and cybersecurity vulnerabilities has emerged. Panellists agreed that the proposed ASEAN Digital Economy Framework Agreement (DEFA) will help address these concerns. Furthermore, DEFA could be a springboard for ASEAN to become a rule-maker rather than a rule-taker in the global digital trade regime. The need to improve the capacity of micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in adopting digital solutions was also extensively discussed.

The final panel covered ASEAN’s progress in its environmental sustainability goals. Representatives from both small business and large firms shared their insights and feedback on their respective sustainability journeys. While significant progress has already been made, government support to facilitate innovation in green industries, encourage environmental, social, and governance (ESG) reporting; and assist small businesses in easing financial burdens will help hasten the progress of ASEAN’s green transition.

The panellist’s presentations and the engaging Q&A sessions with the audience that followed demonstrated that there is significant interest in exploring ASEAN’s possible pathways to improve its regional resilience despite the persisting uncertainty in the geopolitical and economic landscape.

more info
Other Articles