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The Feasibility of an ASEAN Customs Union Post- 2015

By Institute of South East Asian Studies

4 March 2015

• As ASEAN member economies start their discussion on the ‘deepening’ of economicintegration, an ASEAN Customs Union (CU) may become a possibility.

• Given that Singapore already operates a zero tariff regime on trade in goods there are twooptions for ASEAN in moving towards a CU: either all its members will need to inchcloser to a zero Common External Tariff (CET), or they will have to form a CU with apositive CET minus Singapore. The latter would however mean that the customs unionwould only be a partial one.

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India’s Foreign Policy: Big Shift or Pragmatic Makeover?

By Akanksha Sharma and Akanksha Narain

25 February 2015


In light of recent events, especially President Obama’s visit to India and Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj’s visit to China, India’s foreign policy appears to have undergone a transformative shift since the heyday of Non-Alignment. Is this indeed the case?


PRESIDENT OBAMA’S visit to New Delhi as guest of honour for the Republic Day celebrations on 26 January 2015 has been notable beyond its significant symbolism. It was marked by the issuing of a joint statement entitled the “India-US Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region”. That document was the focus of the Chinese media’s coverage of the visit. Among other things it spoke about the need to ensure “freedom of navigation and over flight …especially in the South China Sea”. The inclusion of this issue in the document was a bold departure from India’s past reticence to name names and take a stand on critical international issues.

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What is the EU’s further Role in Asian Security Issues?

By EU-Asia Centre

17 February 2015

The Asian economy continued to grow impressively in 2014. But Asia is still facing a number of security challenges such as territory disputes in East Asia, South Asia, and South East Asia. Regional players such as China, Japan, India and ASEAN play crucial roles in dealing with these challenges as do outside players including the US and EU. However in 2104, the EU was pre-occupied by security issues in its own neighbourhood and it seemed Europe put less focus on Asian security issues. Furthermore, pressing international security challenges such as ISIS needed to be addressed globally as well.

Under the current international security environment, what role can the EU play with regard to challenges to regional security and human security in Asia? Can Asia impact regional security in Europe? What are the main areas of concerns for closer political dialogue between EU and Asia? Does ASEM have enough potential or parties should set up new initiatives?

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Mapping Bangladesh’s Political Crisis

By International Crisis Group

11 February 2015

On 5 January, the first anniversary of the deeply contested 2014 elections, the most violent in Bangladesh’s history, clashes between government and opposition groups led to several deaths and scores injured. The confrontation marks a new phase of the deadlock between the ruling Awami League (AL) and the Bangladesh National Party (BNP) opposition, which have swapped time in government with metronomic consistency since independence. Having boycotted the 2014 poll, the BNP appears bent on ousting the government via street power. With daily violence at the pre-election level, the political crisis is fast approaching the point of no return and could gravely destabilise Bangladesh unless the sides move urgently to reduce tensions. Moreover, tribunals set up to adjudicate crimes perpetrated at the moment of Bangladesh’s bloody birth threaten division more than reconciliation. 

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China and the Rule of Law

By EU-Asia Centre

6 February 2015

President Xi Jinping has placed great emphasis on the rule of law – but what exactly does this mean when the CPC plays the dominant political role in China?

This was the central question at an expert roundtable at the Madariaga Foundation on 4th of February. Gong Pixiang,Deputy Director of the Standing Committee and Member of the Leading Party Group of Jiangsu Provincial People’s Congress, was the main Chinese speaker.  Professor François van der Mensbrugghe (ULB) and Benjamin Hartmann (Member, Legal Service of the European Commission) were the European commentators

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Jokowi’s First Months: Compromise Cabinet, Subsidy Cuts, and Corrupt Coalition

By Ulla Fionna

5 February 2015


• President Jokowi’s first months have been dominated by important policies on liftingfuel subsidies, and choosing his cabinet as well as strategic appointments. Althoughthe cabinet demonstrated a number of ‘compromise and reward’ appointments, itsministers are nevertheless under pressure to perform.

• Jokowi’s weak position in the parliament has been improved by leadership crises inthe opposition. The success in retaining direct local elections (pilkada) should alsobring some confidence to the minority government.

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Junta's agenda clearer after Yingluck verdict

By Michael Montesano

29 January 2015

In impeaching a prime minister who left office more than eight months earlier, Thailand's National Legislative Assembly (NLA) may have made legal history.

But this curious exercise was not so much about Ms Yingluck Shinawatra's impeachment for running a botched rice subsidy programme as it was about stripping her of her political rights for five years.

With their verdict, the soldiers and civilians, whom the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) junta appointed to the NLA, have sidelined a woman who emerged during her premiership of almost three years as a popular and rather effective politician in her own right.

Against all expectations, that is, she became more than a mere proxy for her older brother Thaksin. This may explain the NCPO's determination to ban her from politics. It may also explain the further criminal charges, also relating to her government's rice policies, now pending against Ms Yingluck.

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Korea and Europe: Natural partners rediscover each other

By Byung-se Yun

23 January 2015

South Korea | Seoul: The 2015 is a year with anniversaries that resonate for many countries. Europe and Asia will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. For Koreans, it means the 70th year of the liberation, as well as division, of the Korean peninsula. 

During these decades, the world has undergone dramatic transformations. Europe rose from the ashes of war and then tore down the wall of division to become a more integrated and prosperous region. Korea has achieved political democracy and economic growth, with a trade volume topping one trillion US dollars. 

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By Bilahari Kausikan

8 January 2015

ISEAS held its flagship annual conference on Thursday 8 January 2015 at the Shangri-La Hotel,Singapore. Executive summary please see here.  Mr Bilahari Kausikan, Ambassador-at-Large and Policy Advisor,Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Singapore gave the keynote speech. 

In his analysis of East Asia in transition, Mr Bilahari Kausikan assessed the changing equilibrium inthe U.S.-China relationship to be the central strategic issue of our times. While the United Statesinitially created the conditions that facilitated growth in East Asia following World War II, there isnow a consensus across the region that the United States will remain a necessary but insufficientplayer for a stable regional architecture. The current regional order needs to be supplemented by anew architecture. Mr Kausikan stressed that in their process of finding a new equilibrium, conflictbetween the United States and China is not inevitable. While China is rising, the United States isnot in obvious decline. The changes in the distribution of power that are occurring are thereforerelative, not absolute. Both the United States and China face serious challenges but neither country should be underestimated. Mr Kausikan emphasized that the United States, China and Japan are all substantial powers and will remain so in the future.

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thai military leader

A Coup Ordained? Thailand’s Prospects for Stability

By International Crisis Group

3 December 2014


On 22 May, for the twelfth time in Thailand’s history, the army seized power after months of political turbulence. This is not simply more of the same. The past decade has seen an intensifying cycle of election, protest and government downfall, whether at the hands of the courts or military, revealing deepening societal cleavages and elite rivalries, highlighting competing notions of legitimate authority. A looming royal succession, prohibited by law from being openly discussed, adds to the urgency. A failure to fix this dysfunction risks greater turmoil. The military’s apparent prescription – gelding elected leaders in favour of unelected institutions – is more likely to bring conflict than cohesion, given a recent history of a newly empowered electorate. For the army, buyer’s remorse is not an option, nor is open-ended autocracy; rather its legacy, and Thailand’s stability, depend on its success in forging a path – thus far elusive – both respectful of majoritarian politics and in which all Thais can see their concerns acknowledged.

please refer to the full report here

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