Global Lens

ASEAN and India, the bond grows stronger

Association secretary general's trip to New Delhi brings bloc closer to Asian giant

At the invitation of the Government of the Republic of India, H.E. Dr. Kao Kim Hourn, Secretary-General of ASEAN, paid a working visit to India from Feb. 12-15, 2024. February. The purpose of the visit was to further advance the ASEAN-India Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSC) by reactivating engagements across the spectrum of ASEAN's three community pillars and promoting ASEAN diplomacy and visibility in India. Rooted in centuries of civil ties, maritime connectivity and cross-cultural exchanges, the ASEAN-India Comprehensive Strategic Partnership continued to gain momentum. During the visit, India reaffirmed to the ASEAN Secretary-General its commitment to work with ASEAN and its partners in support of peace, stability and prosperity in the region. India expressed its unwavering support for the centrality of ASEAN and the ASEAN Indo-Pacific Perspectives (AOIP) as the principle and framework for promoting cooperation in the region. The visit highlighted India's position as ASEAN's eighth largest trading partner, with total trade of $113.08 billion, accounting for 2.94 percent of ASEAN's total trade. Meanwhile, foreign direct investment flows from India to ASEAN totaled $0.68 billion in 2022. To further maximize the potential of ASEAN-India economic cooperation while at the same time geo-economic uncertainties, the ASEAN Secretary-General has communicated to India the need for both sides to further increase trade and investment including through full and effective utilization of the ASEAN-India Free Trade Area (AIFTA), early utilization of the ASEAN-India Free Trade Area (AIFTA), early conclusion of the ASEAN-India Agreement on Trade in Goods (AITIGA) review negotiations, and India's potential participation in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). Meanwhile, in the tourism sector, discussions during the visit noted a significant increase in the number of visitor arrivals from India to ASEAN to 2.38 million by 2022. This reflects the positive signs of the post-COVID-19 recovery, which is expected to further benefit both sides through the development of sustainable tourism and collaboration on marketing initiatives to present ASEAN as a unique tourism destination for the Indian market.

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ASEAN's Vision on 2024

We publish here an excerpt from the final document of the January 28-29 meeting in Luang Prabang, Laos, between ASEAN foreign ministers 

On January 29, 2024, the Lao Foreign Ministers' retreat was held in Luang Prabang, Lao PDR. We had in-depth discussions on the implementation of the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 and priorities for the Lao chairmanship in 2024, as well as concrete and sustainable ways to further strengthen the ASEAN Community, ASEAN's unity, centrality and resilience amid regional and global challenges. We also exchanged views on ASEAN's external relations and recent regional and international developments of common interest and concern. 

We reaffirmed our strong commitment to upholding regionalism and multilateralism, and stressed the importance of adhering to the key principles, shared values and norms enshrined in the United Nations Charter, the ASEAN Charter, the Declaration on the Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality, the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty (SEANWFZ).

We reaffirmed our shared commitment to maintaining and promoting peace, security and stability in the region, and to the peaceful resolution of disputes, including full respect for legal and diplomatic processes, without resort to the threat or use of force, in accordance with the principles of international law.

We discussed the developments in Myanmar and reaffirmed our unified position that the five-point consensus remains our main reference for addressing the political crisis in Myanmar, with the sole objective of restoring peace, stability and a Myanmar-led comprehensive political resolution. We welcomed the ASEAN leaders' reviews and decisions on the implementation of the Five-Point Consensus Five-Point Consensus, adopted at the 40th and 41st ASEAN Summits in 2022 and the 43rd ASEAN Summit in 2023. 

We reaffirmed ASEAN's commitment to assist Myanmar in finding a peaceful, comprehensive and lasting solution to the ongoing conflict, as Myanmar remains an integral part of ASEAN. ASEAN member states welcomed the appointment of H.E. Alounkeo KITTIKHOUN, former Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister of the Lao People's Democratic Republic, as the ASEAN Chair's Special Envoy for Myanmar for 2024, as we continue our efforts to promote progress in the implementation of the Partnership Agreement with Myanmar.

We appreciated his efforts to date to reach out to stakeholders and trust his willingness to help the people of Myanmar find a Myanmar-led solution toward a peaceful, stable, and unified Myanmar that contributes to peace and prosperity in the region.

Read the full document here

Thailand's Landbridge will bring East and West closer

We publish here an excerpt of the speech by the Prime Minister of Thailand Srettha Thavisin on the Landbridge project

Thailand's Landbridge mega infrastructure project is an effort towards creating seamless connectivity to boost long-term growth prospects in the region and is fully in line with my Government's proactive economic diplomacy.

The project will include the construction of deep-sea ports in Ranong, on Thailand's Andaman coast, and Chumphon, in the Gulf of Thailand. Located approximately 90 kilometers apart, the two ports will operate under the “one port, two sides” concept, supported by a highway and double-track railway lines to connect the ports with each other and with the country's national network.

Each port will have the capacity to handle up to 20 million standard containers per year. The plan also includes the installation of a network of oil and gas pipelines. The total estimated cost is 1 trillion baht ($28 billion).

The Landbridge project represents an unprecedented opportunity to improve connectivity between the Pacific and Indian Oceans and to link economic activity between the two regions.

It promises to facilitate greater movement of goods and people between East and West, offering a viable route for maritime trade beyond the Straits of Malacca.

Once completed, the Landbridge is expected to reduce travel times by an average of four days between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific and reduce transportation costs by 15%. For a company shipping goods from Chennai to Yokohama, for example, this could mean savings of up to five days and 4% on costs.

Those familiar with Thailand's logistical development might see the Landbridge as a modern reworking of a century-old proposal to dredge a canal across the Kra Isthmus.

Although it was originally approved in 1989 as part of Thailand's Southern Economic Corridor, various considerations have left this project unrealized to this day. Now the timing will align well with the growth prospects of the economies of the Indian subcontinent and Africa.

Plans call for the first phase of construction to begin in September 2025 and last until October 2030. Contractors will likely be able to bid on the project between April and June 2025.

The Landbridge is expected to bring benefits of 1.3 trillion baht to the Thai economy and increase the country's annual gross domestic product growth rate by 1.5% through increased export opportunities and the creation of 280,000 jobs . It will also bring new development opportunities for other provinces in southern Thailand.

ASEAN and China: the bond remains deep

Southeast Asia and Beijing are linked by deep trade entanglements. And this will not change even in 2024

By Lorenzo Riccardi

In October 2023, Indonesia inaugurated its first high-speed rail network, with a trip by President Joko Widodo on the bullet train between the capital Jakarta and the city of Bandung. A $7.3 billion investment for a 140-kilometer route built by Chinese and Indonesian companies that allows travel at peak speeds of 350 kilometers per hour, facilitating trade and logistics in the region.

November 2023 saw the launch of the first high-speed passenger train linking Beijing, the Chinese capital, and Vientiane, the capital of Laos.

This is a long tourist route on the China-Laos railway, adding to the routes between Yunnan Province and the ASEAN region inaugurated in the previous two years. A project symbolic of Southeast Asia's relationship with the People's Republic of China that is part of the Belt and Road Initiative, with the goal of promoting the movement of people and goods between southern China and Southeast Asia. 

This infrastructure is part of a larger project that will lead to connecting with 5,500 kilometers of high-speed network Beijing with Singapore through Laos, Thailand, Malaysia and linking the capitals Vientiane, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore to promote the region's logistics, trade and tourism.

The Belt and Road Initiative, from which Rome recently exited, includes 42 of the continent's 49 nations in Asia and all 10 Southeast Asian countries from Brunei to Indonesia.

For China, the ASEAN region occupies a key geopolitical position, serving as a crossroads for major sea routes and attracting the interest of every global power. 

Economically, the region's aggregate gross domestic product exceeds $3.6 trillion, driven by some of the highest growth: 4.2 percent in 2023 and 4.6 percent in 2024 according to International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates.

Southeast Asia's role in global supply chains, rich natural resources and trade agreements highlight the region's strategic importance, while infrastructure development and connectivity initiatives increase its global relevance.

According to IMF estimates in the October outlook, China will grow at 5 percent in 2023 and 4.2 percent in 2024, while variations in GDP trends are observed for ASEAN countries with Cambodia, the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam showing the highest growth rates for 2023-2024.

Brunei is the region's smallest economy and shows a decline of 0.8 percent in 2023, with a notable recovery to 3.5 in 2024, indicating a turnaround. Cambodia performs the best, with gross domestic product increasing by 5.6 percent in 2023 and further increasing by 6.1 percent in 2024.

The Philippines, forecast a change of 5.3 percent in the current year, and a further increase to 5.9 percent in 2024, confirming the highest growth in the ASEAN-5 Group of the five countries with the largest population and GDP.

Indonesia and Laos maintain a steady trend, with Jakarta at +5 percent for both 2023 and 2024 and Vientiane at 4 percent over the two-year period. Malaysia shows incremental figures at 4 percent in the current year and 4.3 percent for next year.

An increase of 2.6 percent is estimated for Burma in both 2023 and 2024, while Singapore, which has the largest GDP per capita, is estimated to expand at 1 and 2.1 percent in the two-year period 2023-2024.

Finally, the International Monetary Fund forecasts a gradual increase over the two years for Thailand, with growth of 2.7 and 3.2 percent; Vietnam, among the region's large economies, has the largest delta with GDP + 4.7 percent in 2023 and a projection of 5.8 percent in 2024.

ASEAN and Beijing grow above the global average, which stands at +3 percent in 2023 and 2.9 percent next year. 

China has Southeast Asia as its top trading partner with $826 billion in trade as of November 2023, above Beijing's aggregate import and export volume recorded with the European Union ($716 billion) and the United States ($607 billion) in the first eleven months of the year. 

Kuala Lumpur, which has just signed mutual visa-free entry agreements with China is the largest exporter with $94 billion in November Chinese customs data (nearly four times the volume of Italian exports to China, which stands at $24.9 billion) while Hanoi is the largest importer of Chinese products with about $124 billion.

To promote partnership in trade, China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have signed a series of agreements on economic cooperation with a large number of bilateral and multilateral treaties signed over the past 20 years.

-Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation between ASEAN and China: Signed in 2002, this agreement served as the foundation for economic cooperation between Beijing and ASEAN member countries. It outlined the principles and areas of cooperation, including trade, investment and economic integration.

-ASEAN-China Free Trade Area (ACFTA): Implemented in several stages between 2005 and 2010, the ACFTA promoted the establishment of a free trade area between China and ASEAN with the reduction or elimination of tariffs on a wide range of goods, encouraging greater trade flows.

-Agreement on Trade in Goods and Comprehensive Economic Cooperation between ASEAN and China: Signed in 2004, this agreement introduced specific provisions for the reduction and elimination of duties on various goods traded between China and ASEAN countries.

-ASEAN-China Investment Agreement: Signed in 2009, it aims to promote bilateral investment flows by establishing a framework for investment protection and facilitation.

-ASEAN-China Free Trade Area Update Protocol: Signed in 2015, this protocol further enhanced trade relations between China and ASEAN with tariff reductions and addressing issues related to trade in goods, services and investment.

-Protocol amending the Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation between ASEAN and China: Signed in 2015 with the aim of deepening economic integration by addressing issues such as customs procedures, certificate of origin rules and trade facilitation.

-ASEAN-Hong Kong, China Free Trade Agreement: effective as of 2019.

-Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership: (RCEP) entered into force in 2022 is a multilateral free trade agreement in the Asia-Pacific region. It is considered one of the largest trade agreements in the world as it involves a large number of countries: the 10 members of ASEAN and their six trading partners-China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India.

ASEAN moves closer to Africa

Not only Europe, the Americas and the Gulf. Southeast Asia also strengthens ties with the African continent

ASEAN and South Africa held the inaugural meeting of the ASEAN-South Africa Joint Sectoral Cooperation Committee (ASA-JSCC) at ASEAN headquarters on Nov. 30. The meeting marked the launch of the first formal sectoral dialogue partnership on the African continent and thus realizes the expansion of ASEAN's external relations to all continents of the world. ASEAN foreign ministers conferred sector dialogue partner status on South Africa at the 56th Foreign Ministers' Meeting last July in Jakarta. Last week's meeting adopted the ASA-JSCC mandate and deliberated on several areas of future cooperation. On the economic front, the meeting encouraged South Africa to explore practical cooperation in areas of mutual interest and benefit, including trade and investment, public-private partnership, strengthening micro, small and medium enterprises, tourism, transport, energy the critical minerals and mineral resources sector, information and communication technologies, food security, halal industry, sustainable agriculture, blue economy, digital economy, fisheries, aquaculture and forestry, research and innovation, and science and technology. The meeting also noted the four key priorities of the economic partnership that ASEAN would like to pursue with South Africa, namely (1) strengthening ASEAN market integration; (2) sustainability and decarbonization; (3) digital transformation; and (4) inclusiveness of economic systems and people-to-people exchanges. Regarding the socio-cultural sphere, it is intended to explore cooperation in the areas of health, women's empowerment, education and climate change, but also to intensify efforts to improve people-to-people contacts through exchange programs involving youth, students, media and artists, as well as scholarship programs. Both sides also agreed to develop the ASEAN-South Africa Areas of Practical Cooperation, which will serve as a framework for achieving shared goals and related priorities in the coming years. The development is very significant because it testifies to the strengthened interconnection between ASEAN and several areas of the world with broad growth potential, including Africa.

Toward an Italian strategy for the Indo-Pacific

Italy moves to formalize its engagement in the region

Editorial by Gabriele Abbondanza, University of Madrid and University of Sydney

Italy is getting closer to the Indo-Pacific. In spite of geographic distance and important challenges close to its borders, Rome could formulate an Italian strategy for the Indo-Pacific, thereby strengthening ties with this macro-region.

As highlighted by the most recent research, Italy has been approaching the Indo-Pacific for about 20 years. In the meantime, much has changed: the region’s economies are growing at an enviable pace, territorial disputes have risen in many regions - the South China Sea is emblematic - and the economic crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic have underscored the fragilities of the international community.

Nevertheless, Italy has continued to pursue its own “informal approach” to the Indo-Pacific. Trade interchanges have increased by more than one-sixth in the last 10 years, and defense-related interchanges by nearly 45%. The strategic collaboration has strengthened joint training, defense of navigation and overflight rights, interoperability, and strategic projects ( see IPO,GCAP, and IMEC, among other examples). Finally, Rome has formed partnerships with many key players in the region, including PIF, Vietnam, Korea, IORA, ASEAN, UAE, Japan and India.

Given the undoubtedly ripe time, Italy is moving to formalize its commitment. Such a potential strategy, currently under discussion, would rationalize the Italian approach, formalizing it for the benefit of European and North American allies and Indo-Pacific partners, and ensure the constancy of such engagement well into the future.

This journey began with the creation of an Indo-Pacific Committee at the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Chamber of Deputies, thanks to the efforts of Hon. Paolo Formentini, who was also supported in this area by opposition representatives such as Hon. Lia Quartapelle Procopio. The Committee’s activities -which I had the pleasure of contributing to with the inaugural hearing - will ensure expert advice to support parliamentary debates.

Other events in support of an Italian strategy - which is inclusive and multilateral in nature, and respectful of the many existing sensitivities - included a conference at the Senate that saw Sen. Francesco Giacobbe, Hon.Formentini, myself, Dr. Karolina Muti and Dr. Alessio Piazza explain the benefits of such an objective to an audience of experts. The ambassadors present, in particular, have emphasized the importance of an Italian strategy with these characteristics for Indo-Pacific relations.

There still is a long way to go and there are several developments that could distract the attention of the government which always has the last word on the subject, however, the conditions are favorable and it is therefore with guarded optimism that we can look to the future of Italy’s relations with the Indo-Pacific.

Italy and ASEAN, Partnership growing stronger

At the Farnesina, a new high-level meeting with the leadership of the bloc of Southeast Asian countries

Editorial by Maria Tripodi, Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation

On December 7, I received the Deputy Secretary General of ASEAN, Michael Tene, at the Farnesina. The meeting was part of our country's ongoing collaboration with ASEAN to implement the Development Partnership launched in late 2020. In a little more than three years, our Partnership with ASEAN has achieved significant results, enabling the implementation of multiple training initiatives for the benefit of Southeast Asian countries in a wide range of strategic areas: from security to the environment, and from the protection of cultural heritage to sustainable development. With Deputy Secretary General Tene, I renewed our common commitment to enriching the Partnership with new projects-many of which are already under negotiation with the Secretariat and member states-with a shared mode of ownership and in areas of common interest. These include many fields that are essential for the stability and security of states in contemporary reality: cybercrime, combating transnational crime, promoting legality, space, food security, energy transition, and prevention and management of natural disasters. This is in the knowledge that only together can the growing threats to peace, the protection of the rules-based international order, and sustainable development, which are also fueled by the multiplication of crisis theaters around the world, be effectively addressed. Indeed, ASEAN represents a model of regional integration in a key geo-strategic position for maintaining peace and shared prosperity in the Indo-Pacific. In this context, Italy stands ready to collaborate with the incoming Laotian Chairmanship of ASEAN, focusing on the issues of connectivity and resilience, with the hope that the country can build on the important achievements of the current Indonesian Chairmanship, especially in the areas of regional integration and investment. We trust that Laos will also ensure continuity in Indonesia's efforts to manage the serious crisis that has plagued Myanmar for nearly three years, following the February 1, 2021 coup d'état, with possible repercussions for stability in the area.

EU and ASEAN: navigating the turbulence between the US and China

In the new international context marked by the confrontation between the USA and China, ASEAN and the EU can play a crucial role in avoiding conflict and promoting global cooperation

The current international landscape is heavily influenced by the growing competition between the US and China. This rivalry extends beyond trade and economics into areas of technology, military prowess, and geopolitical influence.

The recent summit in California showcased the deep-rooted and complex nature of US-China relations. Presidents Xi and Biden, representing the world's two largest economies, engaged in extensive discussions on a range of contentious issues. However, the summit concluded with several key disputes unresolved, highlighting the persistent friction between the two nations especially on trade and geopolitical issues, with reference to the situation in Taiwan and in the South China Sea.

The rivalry between the US and China occurs against a backdrop of global instability marked by conflicts like the war in Ukraine and in the Middle East. This environment has led to a decline in international trust and cooperation, raising concerns about a potential return to Cold War-era bloc politics. Such a division into spheres of influence would be detrimental, particularly for the EU and ASEAN, which have thrived in a more open and cooperative international system.

The EU and ASEAN, with significant differences in terms of history and socio-political context, share a core objective: promoting regional market integration to achieve peace, stability, and prosperity. However, the integrative model they champion is now under threat from global tensions that challenge the integrity of common markets and the cohesion of the development model of these organizations. The ongoing US-China trade war, marked by the imposition of tariffs and trade barriers, serves as a prime example of how external geopolitical tensions can significantly disrupt internal market dynamics within the EU and ASEAN. 

Despite the grim outlook, there are substantial opportunities for both the EU and ASEAN in the current geopolitical climate. Both the EU and ASEAN possess significant market attractiveness that can be leveraged to influence the US-China dynamic. The EU, with its GDP of over $15 trillion and a population of about 450 million (with an enlargement in sight), represents one of the largest single markets in the world. On the other hand, ASEAN, with a combined GDP of approximately $3 trillion and a population exceeding 650 million (of which around 60% is under 35), is one of the fastest-growing regions globally. These economic conditions position both the EU and ASEAN uniquely to mediate and potentially influence the strategic decisions of the US and China, especially in areas of trade policy and regional security.

The EU and ASEAN can play a crucial role in developing a more stable multipolar world order, moving away from bipolar tensions. This involves not only strengthening their internal cohesion but also enhancing inter-regional cooperation. By consolidating their relations and by investing in market integration, these blocs can assert a more balanced and influential role in international affairs.

Joint diplomatic and trade initiatives between the EU and ASEAN can be pivotal in balancing the influence of the US and China, focusing primarily on enhancing trade and economic integration. The EU and ASEAN should start working on a comprehensive trade framework with the aim of reducing tariffs and regulatory barriers. Such an agreement, extended to encompass the entire ASEAN region, would create one of the world's largest free trade areas, diversifying trade relations and reducing overreliance on the US and China. Establishing joint standards in areas like product safety, intellectual property, and sustainable trade practices could be strategically very useful. This would not only align the EU and ASEAN markets more closely but also set an example for global trade standards, independent of the US and China's influence, and enhance their collective bargaining power and strategic position in the global market.

In conclusion, the EU and ASEAN are at a pivotal point in the evolving global landscape, marked by the US-China rivalry and broader international tensions. While they face significant challenges, these regional blocs also possess unique opportunities to influence the global order. By leveraging their economic strength, advocating for a multipolar world, and enhancing inter-regional cooperation, the EU and ASEAN can play a vital role in fostering a more balanced and peaceful international system. Their actions and decisions in the coming years will be crucial in shaping the trajectory of global politics and in ensuring the stability and prosperity of their respective regions.

Italian Startups in Singapore

With a growing innovation ecosystem and a key role in global trade, Singapore offers unparalleled opportunities for Italian companies

Italian innovation puts one foot in Asia. By way of Singapore. Nov. 7 marked the return of the Global Startup Program to the city-state, which aims to be a catalyst for innovation and collaboration between Italy and the Southeast Asian region across ASEAN countries. Organized by the Italian Trade Agency (ITA) in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the program is an opportunity for eight Italian startups from various areas, including fintech, healthtech, blockchain, health & fitness, sustainability and hrtech. The event, hosted by Accelerator Tenity Singapore, offers startups the chance to strengthen their technical, organizational and financial capabilities during the incubation process. The eight Italian innovative startups, including Brain & Fitness Italy, Carchain, Coffeefrom, Fairtile, Hacking Talents SRL SB, iWise, Sensosan Sell and Wibiocard. Dante Brandi, Italy's ambassador to Singapore and Brunei, stressed the importance of this participation, describing the program as a catalyst for innovation and collaboration and the strengthening of ties between Italy and Singapore. Brandi highlighted Singapore's key role in Italy's global trade strategies in the ASEAN region, with significant Italian export and investment figures. Singapore, chosen as an ideal location, represents a crucial springboard for Italian startups. With a growing innovative ecosystem and a key role in global trade, Singapore offers unparalleled opportunities for Italian companies. Ilaria Piccinni, deputy trade commissioner for Singapore and the Philippines at the Italian Trade Agency, emphasized the synergy and energy in Singapore's startup ecosystem, highlighting the potential for Italian startups to thrive and make a significant impact. With a wide range of activities planned through Dec. 1, 2023, the program aims to further consolidate the presence and influence of Italian startups in the global innovation landscape. Singapore and ASEAN represent a pivotal hub to achieve the goal.

Climate Finance: the COP28 as seen by ASEAN

In an effort to respond to regional needs, the 10 members of the Organization are currently developing the ASEAN Climate Finance Access and Mobilization Strategy, a tool designed to harmonize the use of frameworks and structures for monitoring financial flows

By Sibeles Chiari

With less than a month to go before COP28 in Dubai, expectations are rising about reaching a transformative agreement that will move humanity away from catastrophic scenarios. Significantly alarming is the situation in the Southeast Asian region, home to as many as 6 of the 20 states identified as most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change: the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. Concerns based on forecasts heralding greater economic losses than anywhere else in the world, with an estimated 11 percent decline in GDP by 2100. In fact, only with copious increases in climate finance and a concerted effort by governments, investors, central banks and financial regulators will economic and human losses be limited. An effort that, globally, will need to generate some $2.4 trillion in total annual investment by 2030 to succeed in sustaining emerging markets. Indeed, at the Dubai summit, climate finance will be at the center of the policy debate because, mobilizing financial resources and activating innovative financing mechanisms (e.g., Loss and Damage fund) will play a key role in combating climate change and accelerating toward a more sustainable economy. That being said, it is not surprising that the dynamics related to the climate finance discipline will have an increasing impact on the performance of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) economies.

Throughout the various UNFCCC COPs, ASEAN nations have continually urged the more industrialized countries to meet their 2009 commitment to provide $100 billion per year to developing countries by 2020. A commitment that has been more verbal than real, considering that between 2000 and 2019, ASEAN countries received $56 billion from developed countries. While European states such as Germany and France have contributed 11.8 percent and 8.4 percent, respectively, of total bilateral climate funding to the region, Japan has allocated as much as 65 percent. Indeed, the influence of the Japanese country, which jointly launched the SPACE program with ASEAN members to combat climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss, stands out. Additional climate funding also comes from China, which ranks as the main provider of South-South flows, followed by India. As well as from ASEAN countries themselves with their contributions to the mobilization of Green Climate Fund (GCF) resources. Of course, in the context of climate finance, there is no shortage of substantial support from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (AIB), as the largest multilateral provider of climate finance to the region.

Over the past decade, more than half of all climate finance provided to the region has gone to the transportation and storage (32 percent), energy (26 percent) and agriculture, forestry and fisheries (9 percent) sectors. It is also worth highlighting the high growth recorded in other sectors, such as health (+427 percent), business and various services (+336 percent) and emergency response (+218 percent). Looking at the ASEAN space, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam received the highest share of funding, and indeed, most of the funds went to the transport, energy, and agriculture sectors. For example: Vietnam has attracted significant investment in wind and solar power; Indonesia has received funding and international support for initiatives to combat deforestation and promote reforestation through the REDD+ program; as well as the recently concluded loan agreements between the Philippines and the World Bank worth $876 million to finance three sustainable agriculture projects (MIADP, FISHCORE and PRDP). With data in hand, Asia receives the highest share of climate finance among all regions of the world. No doubt this is a figure that inspires optimism, although the per capita share of Southeast Asian countries remains the lowest. Finally, in an effort to address regional needs, the 10 members of the Organization are currently developing the ASEAN Climate Finance Access and Mobilization Strategy, a tool aimed at harmonizing the use of frameworks and structures for monitoring financial flows. Therefore, this strategy will accelerate investment in the implementation of mitigation and adaptation actions based on the needs identified by member states. An initiative that will facilitate access to climate finance by pursuing the health of our dear planet as the ultimate goal and common hope among all of us.

More cooperation between ASEAN and Gulf countries

ASEAN and the Gulf Cooperation Council are considering a potential free trade agreement, a topic moreover addressed two years ago by the Italy-ASEAN Association in Dubai. Here we publish an excerpt from the joint communiqué issued at the end of the bilateral summit on Friday, October 20

Inspired by the common interests and deeply rooted historical ties between the two sides, the leaders exchanged views on common regional and international issues and discussed ways to improve and develop their partnership to take advantage of the growth opportunities that can be exploited through cooperation between the two regions, based on the shared visions for the future of their partnership and the values embodied in the United Nations Charter. The leaders pledge to:

  1. Join efforts to promote peace, security, stability and prosperity through mutual respect and cooperation among countries and regions to achieve development and progress and maintain the international order based on rules and adherence to the UN Charter.
  2. Undertake consultations and explore cooperation on specific areas of common interest to implement the four priority areas of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP): maritime cooperation, connectivity, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), economic.
  3. Recognize the importance of the oceans and seas as key factors in the region's growth and prosperity, and reaffirm the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, stability, maritime security, freedom of navigation and overflight in the region, and other legitimate uses of the seas and legitimate and unimpeded maritime trade, as well as promoting the peaceful settlement of disputes, in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
  4. Strengthen ties between the two sides, multilaterally and bilaterally, and in global forums, pursuing opportunities for sustainable development, peace, security and stability, and to address global and regional challenges and risks; to ensure sustainable supply chains, transport interconnection, and strengthen food, energy and water security, as well as build cooperation on green and renewable energy sources and technologies, tourism infrastructure, and creation of energy sources.
  5. Conduct further consultations to explore new opportunities for trade, investment and technical cooperation between ASEAN and the GCC, including the possibility of developing a framework agreement on economic, trade and investment cooperation.

Full text here.

EU-ASEAN Climate Diplomacy

Green Diplomacy Week 2023 kicks off in partnership between the European Union and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Here is the program

EU-ASEAN Green Diplomacy Week 2023 kicks off on Sunday, October 15. First introduced to the public in 2019, Climate Diplomacy Week has become a landmark annual event where delegations and embassies of EU member states around the world host events to promote dialogue and cooperation on climate change. The theme is particularly important in the context of cooperation with the ASEAN bloc. Called "Green Diplomacy Week" this year, the event still aims to serve as a platform to showcase success stories and inspire further action. In late 2022, the EU launched the Global Gateway strategy, a new global strategy to build resilient connections with the world, with sustainable connectivity and green transitions as two main pillars. In this context, Green Diplomacy Week 2023 will also be an opportunity to continue the momentum of the new global strategy. A series of online, offline and hybrid events are planned. Events will include panel discussions, exhibitions and clean-up sessions, as well as a fun walk/run/bike ride. Events will focus on engaging youth and the ASEAN public. A total of 10 events (online, offline and hybrid) will be organized by the EU Communication and Visibility for ASEAN project in collaboration with EU delegations in ASEAN member states, EU-ASEAN partners, communities and youth organizations in ASEAN member states. Among the events included in the program: a workshop on plastic waste recycling organized with Thailand, a 2-day learning camp for "young nature guardians" in the Philippines, a series of waste management education meetings in Malaysia, and interactive presentations and games for indigenous school children in the Pu Mat forest in Vietnam. Also on the agenda are very concrete activities such as cleaning a river in Brunei and a photography and artwork competition in Laos. Concluding on Sunday, October 22, with a Mekong River shoreline cleanup and tree planting in Cambodia.