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ASEAN has big opportunities, says ex-Indonesian minister

ANN/THE STRAITS TIMES – 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, said 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.

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 regional power as well as a regional economic (power and) regional value chain,” she said.

In a world of much uncertainty, to reduce vulnerabilities, there is a trend towards diversification and “deconcentration” of supply chains as a response to security and geopolitical shocks, Dr Pangestu noted, and ASEAN is well placed to benefit. “You want ASEAN to be the attractive location for that relocation,” she said.

Moreover, security and economics are not separate, she pointed out. Economic interdependence needs to be seen as part of security cooperation and include non-traditional security concerns such as climate, health, refugees and immigration.

Former Indonesian minister Dr Mari Pangestu. PHOTO: ST
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