A think tank has advocated the strengthening of Asean’s unity and economy with the aim of placing the bloc at par with global superpowers.
Woo Wing Thye, who heads the Jeffrey Cheah Institute on Southeast Asia, said such unity and economic strength would, among other things, enable Asean to improve its military strength.
“We in Southeast Asia have to push for a new global governance agenda which pushes upon the Americans, Chinese and Indians,” he said at a forum at Sunway University.
“But to push such an agenda, Southeast Asia not only needs to be united, it needs to be rich enough to be able to afford military hardware that is equivalent to that of the big powers.
“And a united Asean would be able to negotiate better.”
Achieving such a goal, he said, required “painful internal economic reforms”.
He said one of the things Asean needed to do was to enter into free trade agreements.
“We should join every free trade bloc that comes along, and then undertake the kind of domestic policies that will compensate the losers in Asean.”
He said Asean should aim to be strong and united enough to be able to at least reduce the superpowers’ spheres of influence or to turn the region from being “a so-called sphere of influence” into “a sphere of responsibility”.