ASEAN Toward Global Market Integration: Enhanced Connectivity & External Relationship


Arrizka Permata Faida

Best 10 Author of Call for Essay: ASEAN Community Post 2015

The establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015 is a major milestone in the regional economic integration agenda in ASEAN.  With population over 622 million people and a nominal combined GDP of US$2.6 trillion in 20142 is fast becoming a major economic force in Asia and a driver of global growth. ASEAN has become the third largest economy in Asia and the seventh in the world. ASEAN become more influential, with widening markets regionally and globally. This essay focus on AEC fourth pillar3 refers to integration with the global economy to become strength as a region in economy and sustainable in needs to respond to global trends and be proactive in seizing new opportunities toward global market integration.


Following the successful implementation of the AFTA, the ASEAN Leaders adopted the ASEAN Economic Blueprint as a master plan guiding the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community 2015. The stated goal is a regional economic integration – a single market and production base and the free movement of goods, services and labor. ASEAN economic integration effort contributed fundamentally to the regional economic foundation, ensuring the continuing strong performance of our national and regional economies.

External Economic Relationship

In globalization era, the forms of external relations have become more important. ASEAN possesses immense growth potential and is a notable global hub of manufacturing and trade, as well as one of the fastest-growing consumer markets in the world.

AKFTA is focusing to strengthen economic, trade and investment cooperation by progressively liberalizing and promoting trade in goods and services as well as create a transparent, liberal and facilitative investment regime. 4

In  trade of goods and service, imports  from  ASEAN to Korea make  up  about  10%  of  Korea’s  total  inbound  shipments, the top items imported from ASEAN have a much higher share compared to world  imports  in  terms  of  amount.  It is possible to assess that ASEAN is an important trade partner. Korea stood at the 7th largest trading country, and ASEAN represents an important trading partner (for Primary Products as table above) for Korea. Korea’s total trade volume with ASEAN in 2014 amounted to $138 billion USD, making ASEAN Korea’s second largest trading partner, after China at $235.4 billion USD. Out of Korea’s total 2014 trade volume of $1,098.2 billion USD, ASEAN’s share was 12.6%, only after China at 21.4%.

Figure 1. Korea’s Import Item from ASEAN by Industry (1990~2009)


The EU was ASEAN’s second largest trading partner after China in 2013. With the portion for around 13% of ASEAN trade. ASEAN is the EU’s 3rd largest trading partner outside Europe (after the US and China) with more than €246 billion of trade in goods and services in 2014.5 The EU is by far the largest investor in ASEAN countries accounting for 22% of total FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) inflows in the region. EU companies have invested an average €19 billion annually in the region (2012-2014). The main imports from ASEAN to the EU are machinery and transport equipment, agricultural products as well as textiles and clothing.

Figure 2. EU-ASEAN Negotiations History


The EU makes a negotiations with individual ASEAN Member States in different year, but also cooperates with the ASEAN region as a whole.6 EU and ASEAN as two leading regional integration initiatives partnering in integration and connectivity.7

The US is the 3rd largest trading partner for ASEAN. ASEAN investment in the US has grown over 1,400% and US investment in ASEAN has increased 169% since 2001. US investment in ASEAN is almost $190 billion exceeding all other destinations in Asia, while ASEAN investment into the US exceeds $27 billion. The importance of America’s current and future relationship with ASEAN mutually beneficial growth will require greater investments in America’s political, economic, and diplomatic engagement with ASEAN. Recognizing its geostrategic importance, the US cooperates with ASEAN and its member states on a multitude of initiatives ensuring security and stability in the region. ASEAN investment in the US is growing much faster than the investment coming from other regions.

Figure 3. US-Asia Direct Investment,through 2012


Participation in global supply networks

 ASEAN requires an integrated approach to connectivity. To enhance participation in global supply networks by:

  • Adoption of international standards and regulation in production and distribution
  • Developing a comprehensive package of technical [efficient logistics and distribution services] to upgrade industrial capabilities and productivity. 8
  • Optimize their production process (from raw materials to finished products) through outsourcing and offshoring of activities at competitive cost and quality.


A competitive economic region is a connected region. ASEAN is one of the largest economic zones in the world; a growing hub of consumer demand. Process toward global market integration has shown. Global market integration could potentially combine to produce opportunities and generate challenges,that is higher costs, or complicated regulations to ASEAN countries. That will help to improve the living standards of the ASEAN population through economic development. ASEAN also intends to improve global supply networks, as well as expand trade, and improve transportation and infrastructure.


Burnson, Patrick. ASEAN is Refining Supply Chain Networks. Accessed on October 29.

Cheong, Jaewan. Korea’s Intermediate Goods Trade with ASEAN. Accessed on October 28.

European Commission. Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). Accessed on October 28.

European External Action Service. The EU-ASEAN relationship in twenty facts and figures. Accessed on October 29.

Supply Chain Asia. Building Resilient ASEAN Supply Chains. Retrieved on October 29.

The East-West Center. ASEAN MATTERS FOR AMERICA/ AMERICA MATTERS FOR ASEAN. Retrieved on October 28.

Vinayak HV, Fraser Thompson, and Oliver Tonby. Understanding ASEAN: Seven things you need to know. Retrieved on October 28.

AEC                           ASEAN Economic Community

AFTA                         ASEAN Free Trade Agreement

AKFTA                     ASEAN-Korea Free Trade Area

ASEAN                     Association of Southeast Asian Nations

EU                              European Union

1  : Student at Department of Management, School of Business and Management, Bandung Institute of Technology

2 : ASEAN. ASEAN Economic Community. Accessed October 26,2016.

3 : The 4 pillars are a single market and production base; a competitive economic region; equitable economic development; and integration with the global economy.

4 It also aims to explore new areas and develop appropriate measures for closer economic cooperation and integration; facilitate more effective economic integration of the new ASEAN Member States and bridge the development gaps; and, establish a cooperative framework to further strengthen economic relations among the countries. Retrieved from :

5Data retrieved from: European Commission Website.

6 Framed by a biannual ASEAN-EU Trade and Investment Work Program

7 In February 2014, the ASEAN Connectivity Coordination Committee visited the EU.

8 To achieve this requires support for physical infrastructure as well as improving cross-border agreements and institutional connectivity.

Indonesia Needs to Step up Its Fight Against Maritime Piracy


Dedi Dinarto – Researcher at ASEAN Studies Center UGM

Indonesia’s maritime sector gained a boost when on December 21, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Binsar Panjaitan agreed to cooperate with Japan, establishing the strategic bilateral Indonesia-Japan Maritime Forum (IJMF). The two countries agreed to collaborate in the field of maritime security, maritime economy, maritime infrastructure, as well as maritime education and training, as The Jakarta Post has put it.

Seeking strategic cooperation in the maritime and industrial sectors, Luhut invited Japan to contribute to the development of fish markets in Natuna Besar and the energy sector in East Natuna. Furthermore, he hopes that Japan would be interested in constructing a strategic port in Sabang, as well as urging the Maritime Security Board to work with the Japanese on smuggling issues and cleaning up the ocean.

Though the agreement signifies strategic bilateral security cooperation between Indonesia and Japan in term of smuggling prevention, it appears to neglect a growing transnational maritime threat in Southeast Asia: maritime piracy, incidents of which have mostly occurred in Indonesian waters (see Figure 1).

Piracy in SEA

In Southeast Asia, according to a report from a private intelligence agency Dryad, piracy has increased by 22 percent compared to 2014. From 1995 to 2013, Southeast Asia was responsible for 40 percent of the total piracy in the world due to many strategic areas to be opportunistically plundered, particularly in the shipping lanes from the Strait of Malacca to the Singapore Straits and off to the South China Sea.

In the case of Indonesia, according to the report from the ICC-IMB that I have compiled in my chapter of a book entitled Reformasi Tata Kelola Keamanan Maritim di Era Presiden Joko Widodo, published by Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs, a substantial number of piracy and armed robbery attacks took place in most major Indonesian ports (see Figure 2).

Piracy in Indonesia

Another missing concern of Indonesia’s bilateral diplomatic engagement is the lack of success to carry out maritime diplomacy as one of the essential elements of the global maritime fulcrum doctrine. The unwillingness of the head of the Indonesian Maritime Security Board, Vice Admiral Arie Soedewo, to recognize maritime piracy as a plausible threat in Indonesian waters (or even more broadly in Southeast Asia) was reflected in the recent deal with Japan. At this point, it poses a serious question as to the Maritime Security Board’s functional role within Indonesia’s maritime security domain.

Indonesia must strengthen maritime security cooperation through active diplomacy. According to its capacity as a middle-power country, Indonesia should maximize its bargaining position at least in particular fields of interest. Indonesia should actively strengthen maritime security cooperation through bilateral and multilateral channels as a preventative measure, not only reacting when significant threats arise (as, for example, in the case of the establishment of trilateral cooperation with Malaysia and the Philippines after Abu Sayyaf’s kidnappings). Although, as the Japan deal shows, Indonesia is likely to focus more on developing the potential of maritime industries and services without any strategic measures on maritime security, both elements are prominent, and indeed inter-related.

Maritime security, as a vital part of becoming a global maritime fulcrum, should not be neglected for two crucial reasons. First, if piracy and armed attacks against ships cannot be forestalled by Indonesia’s coast guard and navy, it would potentially cause harm to the development of the maritime industry and service sectors. A lack of maritime security along the shipping lanes and ports in Indonesia would be a determinant factor for shipping companies weighing whether to involve Indonesia as a transit point.

Second, vulnerability to piracy may threaten the image of Indonesia as a maritime nation. If Indonesia is able to open up to receiving others’ contributions in the maritime industry sector, Indonesia will also need to respond to and prevent current and future maritime security challenges.

Dedi Dinarto is a researcher at ASEAN Studies Center, Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, Universitas Gadjah Mada and independently concerning on Indonesia’s maritime security issues.

The original article has been published in The Diplomat <>

What ‘Brexit’ and ‘Trump’s Triumph’ Warn Us About ASEAN Community



Shane Preuss, Research Intern at ASEAN Studies Center, Gadjah Mada University

One year after the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community, it is important to ask what relevance the political events, which have occurred in Europe and the USA this year, hold for ASEAN integration. These events have seen reassertions of national identity and the exaltations of the nation-state as a defense against supra-nationalism and globalization.  

How can we reflect on ASEAN’s slogan of regional integration, “One vision, One identity, One community” in light of Brexit, rising Euroskepticism and the election of Trump in USA?

The ‘Nation’ State vs ‘Globalists’ – A Reflection from Recent Surveys

Against this backdrop it is important to acknowledge the significance of rising nativism in Europe and the USA and the associated backlash against political establishments and institutions believed to represent globalization and supranationalism.

The EU is suffering from a crisis, wherein its political legitimacy has been tarnished by a perceived disconnect between its citizens and the institutions, which govern and represent them. Euroskepticm continues to rise throughout Europe. A Pew Centre poll of 10 EU countries, published on June 7th this year, found that 49% of Europeans viewed the EU unfavorably. Negative opinions are most pronounced in France, where 61% of the population hold this view and in Greece where the opinion is shared by 71% of the population.

The migrant and refugee crisis has brought anti-EU sentiment to a head, especially amongst rising  right-wing and nationalist movements. However, euroskeptism can be found both on both the left and right of the ideological spectrum, albeit predicated on many different issues. These issues range from negative economic expectations and rising inequality to cultural, migration and security concerns.

Defenders of the EU, extol the political project’s virtues as a champion of peace, prosperity, human rights, justice and democracy, however it is failing to maintain legitimacy amongst the citizens of its members states. Increasing numbers of Europeans hold the perception that the EU does not serve their interests.

This perception is spurring a defense of the nation-state. 42% of respondents in the Pew poll agree they want more powers returned to national governments, while only 19% wish to see a closer Europe and EU expansion through the transference of more power to the regional body.  

Lessons from ‘Brexit’ and ‘Trump’s Triumph’

Brexit was driven by rhetoric focused on reclaiming of national sovereignty. This rhetoric, and the campaigns victory, is all the more significant given the result caught the majority of elected representatives in both major parties unawares.

The same rhetoric appeared in Trump’s presidential campaign. Trump’s vision to ‘Make America Great Again’ was predicated on the notion of putting ‘America First’. With these slogans Trump promoted the role of the ‘Nation’ State as an institution designed to serve its citizens first, appealing to a wide range of Americans, disenfranchised with the political establishment.

Trump’s further appeals to the ‘forgotten man and women’ was also, arguably, a key to his victories in the rust belt states, the region of the country worst affected by globalization and free trade.  It is also important to note the rhetoric of many of Trumps supporters, and the media voices sympathetic to him, who use the term ‘globalist’ to describe their ideological opponents.

Lessons for ASEAN?

What lessons can be learnt from these recent developments in the Europe and the USA? Firstly, it is important to acknowledge the significance of ASEAN’s slogan for a region like South East Asia. ASEAN began as a pragmatic, rather than idealistic, political agreement amongst governing elites concerned with preserving regional peace and the stability of their rule.

It is significant, therefore, that an organization, created by, predominantly, post-colonial states, to aid projects of state-building and national identity formation, is now extending itself to become an engine to foster a second level of identification, the ASEAN identity. Creating such an identity is ambitious political project. Collective identity is often understood as key part of creating resilient communities, and the facilitation of such a shared identity will play an important role in managing the multitude of ethnic, religious and identity differences in one of the most diverse regions in the world.

However, Gita Murti, an Indonesian foreign-service officer who has worked in the Directorate for ASEAN Political Cooperation, argues, it is “easier to agree upon a vision than to form a true collective identity.” The Vision of ASEAN integration remains an elite driven agenda, but one which rests on support and engagement of the public, the constituents of the ‘one’ identity and community, in order to achieve political legitimacy.

The events in Europe illustrate the difficulties of creating regional institutions, which, represent, and benefit a wide range of, often divergent, interests and concerns, while Trump’s victory and Brexit testify to the continuing belief that the nation-state remains the best-placed political institution to address the interests and concerns of its citizens.  

The creation of the ASEAN community, like the EU, is of course an elite driven process, but it requires engagement from the public for its legitimacy. It represents a shift from the pragmatic and political, State-Centred ASEAN to the ideational and social project of creating a ‘people-centred ASEAN.’ This people-centred, or people-orientated ASEAN, is premised, not only a promoting ASEAN, and ASEAN identity amongst the regions citizens, but also on delivering concrete benefits for these people.

However, in 2012, ASEAN Secretary-General Dr Surin Pitsuwan, warned that the birth of the ASEAN Community will create “winners and losers” with some communities ready to take full advantage of the new economic advantages available, while others may be left behind. He cautioned that growth of inequalities and disparities between communities may jeopardize the sense of belonging to the process of regional integration.

In light of these warnings, it is important to reflect on how the recent, and unfolding, attacks on supranationalism and globalisation in Europe and the USA hold relevance for ASEAN and its slogan of regional integration, “one vision, one community and one identity.”

ASEAN Political-Security Community: The Prospect of South China Sea


Muhammad Ammar Hidayahtulloh

Best 10 Author of Call for Essay: ASEAN Community Post 2015

ASEAN is located strategically at the crossroads of the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, and its history has been shaped as much by the influence by great civilizations as the impact of great powers. Nevertheless, even the ASEAN has the strategic geographic position; the conflict or dispute within the region is unavoidable that will threat the peace and stability in the region. It’s related to the geographic position of ASEAN which close to the disputable South China Sea as one of the most important waterways in the world ever since its discovery of the source of oil and gasses.

The South China Sea (SCS) becomes the scene of occurring territorial dispute between China and several ASEAN member states; the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam and Vietnam, moreover the involvement of United States of America within the dispute has been increasing the tension in the region. Every claimant states have their own claim and strategy to assert their claim toward their sovereignty in the South China Sea. China marked South China Sea claims in 1947 which simplifying the border to nine-dashes that become the historical basis for its territorial claims up to this day. The rest claimant states are ASEAN member states are also taking different claims. Vietnam claims all of both the Spratly and Paracel island chains in the South China Sea. Malaysia claims over the islands and features in the Southern Spratly, and has occupied five of them since 2009. Philippines claims over 50 features in the Spratly and occupies nine of them, where its military presence is second only to that of Vietnam. Brunei claims only two features in the Spratly islands, submerged formations called Louisa Reef and Rifleman Bank, and extends its EEZ around the feature and well into the southern section of the South China Sea. The United States also involving its military power in South China Sea in order to protect the rights freedoms, and lawful uses of sea and airspace guaranteed to all.

ASEAN has outlined its position toward the SCS dispute, it has firstly signed by the agreement between ASEAN and China agreed upon ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in 2002 which approve ASEAN and China commitment to hand in hand maintain the SCS, furthermore DOC strongly support the adoption of Code of Conduct in SCS. Unfortunately, attributable to the overlapping claim on SCS at the moment the ASEAN’s position toward the South China Sea dispute is blurry. The difference stances among ASEAN countries on SCS dispute engender the disunity among ASEAN which leads the rough road in maintaining a unified position on a Code of Conduct. In 2012, ASEAN Foreign Minister Meeting failed to issue joint statement for the first time, because the Cambodia didn’t agree and it was not reach the consensus. Lately in 2016, Cambodia refused to include the verdict of Permanent Court of Arbitration toward the SCS dispute. Cambodia position is hardly affected by its close relation with China. Heretofore, it such a big dilemma when Cambodia and other ASEAN countries takes uncooperative position which supporting China and diminishing the ASEAN unity.

By 2015, ASEAN Political Security Community (APSC) has established as the community to ensure the peace and stability in the region by deepening and expanding the cooperation in political and security sectors in responding the regional and international challenges, so does in SCS dispute. APSC has three key characteristics, a rules-based community of shared values and norms; a cohesive, peaceful, stable and resilient region with shared responsibility for comprehensive security; and a dynamic and outward-looking region in an increasingly integrated and interdependent world. The well implementation of these three characteristics by all ASEAN countries, the inter-state trust, solidarity and integrity can be reached which will make ASEAN become a strong regional unity. Aftermath, ASEAN countries will prefer in the side with fellow ASEAN countries rather than outside powers for pragmatic reasons.

After APSC has well-achieved to create strong regional unity; under the framework of APSC, the South China Sea is the sea of peace, prosperity and cooperation which encourage the dialogue, consultation, and negotiation regarding the SCS dispute bilaterally between ASEAN and China intensively to meet the agreement among the claimant states by adopting the Code of Conduct. The ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting (AMM), ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting (ADMM), ADMM-Plus, and ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) will much contributive to support to meet the agreement among all claimant states of SCS. Furthermore, the statement of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at the East Summit in 2015 to cooperate collectively maintains the South China Sea can be used as the weapon to force China to commit for maintaining the dispute.

Thus, ASEAN must be stand together with unified common position on the SCS dispute and ensure the multilateral and regional solution are in accordance with the main characteristics and principle of APSC which is rules-based, beneficial for all concerned, preserve regional peace, stability and development. Eventually, as the expected prospect, SCS dispute can be settled without any further tensions in the region and the joint cooperation of South China Sea can be attained by all claimant states under the adoption of Code of Conduct on parties in South China Sea.



ASEAN Secretariat. ASEAN Political-Security Community Blueprint 2025. Jakarta: ASEAN Secretariat, 2016

ASEAN Secretariat. ASEAN Political-Security Community Blueprint. Jakarta: ASEAN Secretariat, 2009

Bhatia, Rajiv K., and Vijay Sakhuja. Indo-Pacific Region: Political and Strategic Prospect. New Delhi: Vij Book and Indian Council of World Affairs, 2014

Council on Foreign Relations. “China’s Maritime Disputes.” Accessed October 26, 2016.!/

Pertiwi, Sukmawani Bela. “Is ASEAN Unity in Danger Form the South China Sea?.” The Diplomat. August 3, 2016 Accessed October 29, 2016.

Roach, J. Ashley. Foreword to Malaysia and Brunei: An Analysis of Their Claims in the South China Sea. Unites States: CNA Analysis and Solution Paper, 2014

Behind EU-ASEAN Free Trade Agreements: Do Norms Matter?


Shane Preuss, Research Intern at ASEAN Studies Center, Universitas Gadjah Mada

The EU is currently attempting to pursue both normative political interests and economic interests in the ASEAN. I argue that the EU’s capacity to pursue its normative political interests through trade negotiations is dependent on its economic leverage and that ASEAN states, aware of the attractiveness of their markets, are willing to use their leverage to resist the EU’s attempts to export its political norms through binding legal mechanisms.

The EU has long promoted itself as the ‘model’ of regional integration and an ‘inspiration’ for ASEANs development. It has also provided significant assistance and financial support to the bourgeoning ASEAN secretariat. The EU’s normative political interests regard the attempt to export its norms of political cooperation, domestic and regional law, political institutions and values to other countries and regional bodies. The EU has, often, attempted to achieve this through conditionalities tied to FTA’s.

The resistance of ASEAN members to EU norms in trade negotiations does not, however, amount to a rejection of these norms, but a rejection of the process through which the EU attempts to pursue its normative political interests. ASEAN states have shown a willingness to adopt certain norms promoted by the EU, but only within the existing normative context of political cooperation common in the ASEAN region.

The Norms/Economic nexus in EU trade policy

The EU’s normative political interests are laid out in the Lisbon Treaty (2007), which articulates that EU foreign policy should be guided by its core principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The EU has often used markets access and financial aid as leverage to incentivize policy reform in accordance with ‘European’ values. The EU’s FTA’s are commonly accompanied by Political Cooperation Agreements (PCA’s) and ‘essential clause ’has been used to link preferential trade status to conditions of upholding‘ European values outlined in the PCA. Failure to meet conditionalities can trigger a suspension of trade preferences. The ‘essential’ clause has been a central feature of the EU’s agreements since the early 1990’s.

There are, however, tensions between the EU’s economic interests and its normative political interests. The EU is not a unified actor and there is a distinction between the economic interests of member states and the EU’s normative position, which gives identity to the EU as a whole. This places limits on the EU’s ability to pursue it normative political interests alongside economic interests. The EU has faced criticism for not activating conditionality enough, or for doing so selectively on ‘harmless’ partners, while being reluctant to do so against powerful countries.

As a fragmented power, the EU tends to compromise its normative ambitions and consistency in the face of commercial interests as member states are more likely to converge on economic rather than ideational interests.

Behind EU-ASEAN’s Free Trade Agreements: Examining the relationship between Norms and Economic Leverage

The tension between the EU’s commercial interests and normative ambitions is evident in the EU’s FTA negotiations with ASEAN states. The attractiveness of South East Asia markets has given ASEAN members greater leverage in negotiations, contributing to a relatively symmetrical relationship between the EU and ASEAN states. This blunts the EU’s capacity to insist on legally binding, coercive clauses and conditionalities with prospective partners, who also object to the inclusion of explicit language on social issues in FTA agreements.  

To date, the EU has signed FTA agreements with Singapore and Vietnam and has initiated negotiations with Malaysia and the Philippines.

In FTA negotiations with ASEAN members thus far, the ‘essential clause’ has been replaced with sustainability chapters, which cover labor and environmental practices. The chapters include a dispute resolution mechanism, which is less coercive and more collaborative than the ‘essential clause’ and prevents the unilateral suspension of trade preferences. A complaint can be brought to a panel of experts appointed by a Joint Council of the Agreement who, on the basis of evidence, may propose a non-binding plan of action.

“Normative Adaptation”: Explaining EU-ASEAN Relations

The EU’s inability to insist on strong clauses and conditionality does not, however, equate to a rejection of these norms in ASEAN. It represents that ASEAN states are not passive receivers of EU norms and rejection the process through which the EU attempts to pursue its normative interests. ASEAN has it own norms of political co-operation and the reception of EU norms must be adapted to this pre-existing normative context. While the EU favors institutionalization and the incorporation international principles into domestic law, ASEAN states exhibit a strong focus on protecting sovereignty and a preference for cooperation and discussion on such issues, thus rejecting their attachment to trade negotiations.

Furthermore, while ASEAN has continued to institutionalize, as evidenced by the signing and the ASEAN charter, these developments stop short of emulation of the EU and instead demonstrate the adoption of certain norms and institutions within the EU, where appropriate and where adaptable to ASEAN norms. The inclusion of statements on human rights in the charter, as well as the creation of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human rights are significant examples, which must be understood within the political context of ASEAN’s regional norms.

ASEAN, at this stage, is concerned with promoting, rather than protecting human rights, meaning ASEAN has adopted these norms in a way which does not replace nor undermine the norm of non-interference. The EU’s turn to ‘soft’ mechanisms, such as sustainability chapters, therefore represents a compromise of normative interests and processes of adoption, brought on by the EU’s lack of economic leverage and the embeddedness of ASEAN’s own norms.

Where is ASEAN in Indonesia’s Foreign Policy? Jokowi after Two Years


Ahmad Rizky M. Umar

Research Associate at ASEAN Studies Center UGM

Under President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, Indonesia appears less oriented toward the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Earlier in 2014, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi embraced several new ideas on how Indonesia’s foreign policy will be directed under her leadership, which is now popular as “Pro-People” Foreign policy. Recent developments showed some moves in Indonesia’s foreign policy to promote bilateral diplomacy rather than multilateralism, strengthening ties with China, and reluctance to take lead in the emerging South China Sea.

Is this a signal that Jokowi is now on his way to abandon “ASEAN-Centrality” and move to a “Post-ASEAN” regional policy?  What do these developments imply to regional politics in Southeast Asia?

ASEAN Studies Center Universitas Gadjah Mada organised a forum to discuss these questions with two distinguished speakers: Dr Avery Poole (Lecturer at University of Melbourne) and Mr Zain Maulana (PhD Candidate at University of Leeds) in Friday, 11 November 2016, 1.30-3.00 p.m. This forum was moderated by Mr Ahmad Rizky M Umar (Research Associate at the ASEAN Studies Center UGM). From two different perspectives,  this discussion attempts to unpack why Indonesia tend to move from ASEAN to a broader perspective of regional order in Southeast Asia (see Sukma, 2016).

The Changing Regional Order

Dr Avery Poole began her presentation by raising a question: is Indonesia a ‘natural leader’ in ASEAN, as reflected through ‘ASEAN-centrality’ doctrine during Yudhoyono’s presidency? Or, in contrast, should Indonesia put forward a ‘post-ASEAN’ foreign policy, as noted by several analysts?

Indonesia is, until present, still considered as one of the main force in ASEAN, given a huge population and geopolitical position. This strategic position has unambiguously put Indonesia at centre of regional politics. Indonesia has played a significant role, for example, in mainstreaming and institutionalising Human Rights in the region, during Hassan Wirajuda’s tenure as Foreign Minister. Moreover, Indonesia has also been at the centre of the establishment of ASEAN Community, which was declared in Bali at 2003.

However, we should also take into account recent growing tension in Southeast Asia, particularly in the South China Sea. Several headlines have noted that Indonesia has not played any prominent rule in mediating the conflict, while several other points to Indonesia’s lack of leadership in ASEAN, particularly during the conflict. Indonesia’s reluctance could be understood as an attempt to manage regional order, which is vulnerable to tension not only with external forces (such as China, India, or the US), but also between its member states.

Indonesia has therefore faced a dilemma, whether to take role in mediating any conflict in a changing regional order, or instead retreat to defend the ‘national interest’. Jokowi seems to opt for the second choice. But we should also consider that ASEAN Summit, whatever result it has produced, should not be considered as the only measurement to understand foreign policy outcomes and multilateral arrangements. As Evan Laksmana has aptly noted, it is how to transform and leverage those meetings into concrete strategic outcomes that matters in understanding regional order.

Thus, it is important to continuously re-assess Indonesia’s foreign policy not only by rhetorics, but also by any concrete effort to transform statement into policies. It is clear that Indonesia has not retreat from ASEAN, but instead adapting to the changing regional order. The way Indonesia project their interest in ASEAN, therefore, should be understood in the complex relationship between national interest, changing geopolitical order, and institutional arrangement within ASEAN itself, particularly in relations to the recently-established ASEAN Community.

Explaining Shifts

If Indonesia does not ‘retreat’ from ASEAN, then what role does Indonesia currently play in ASEAN? According to Zain Maulana, Indonesia is now shifting from being a ‘norm entrepreneur’ in ASEAN, as arguably exercised by previous Yudhoyono’s administration, to a more ‘investment-friendly’ foreign policy. The result is ‘frank diplomacy’, in which Jokowi tend to use a more informal meeting to exercise foreign policy rather than formal multilateral arrangement.

The shift was occurred due to three main reasons. First, Jokowi faced different social and political context with Yudhoyono, which witnessed the changing regional and world order in international level. In domestic level, Jokowi also needs to maintain legitimacy from various political forces around his power. Second, both Jokowi and Yudhoyono have different experiences, backgropund, and characteristics, which makes their approaches to international politics differs each other. Third, Jokowi and Yudhoyono have different policy orientations in addressing international politics, which distinguish their approaches to ASEAN.

However, several opinions that put Jokowi’s foreign policy as ‘backward-looking’, and contrasting it with Yudhoyono’s foreign policy, is misleading. In fact, international politics is highly interconnected and is currently multipolar. Consequently, one should understand Indonesia’s foreign policy by placing it under particular structural setting in international politics.

Indonesia is not turning his back from ASEAN. Rather, Indonesia is not necessarily interested to take lead as “norm entrepreneur”and instead seeking a broader form of cooperation. As Rizal Sukma has recently argued, Indonesia place ASEAN as one of several order’ in Southeast Asia, while actively seeking and constructively engaging in broader initiatives in regional politics. It therefore seeks to cooperate with other actors in the dynamic regional politics.

Indonesia, however, could not avoid ASEAN in their foreign policy, since ASEAN is geopolitically strategic and important for the articulation of Indonesia’s national interest. What Indonesia needs to do is seeking recognition and legitimacy among ASEAN member states. Indonesia therefore needs to consider ASEAN as a venue to negotiate their interest and, at the same time, contribute to maintain order through institutional mechanism. It therefore requires a more concrete foreign policy orientation towards ASEAN.

The Role of International Organization in Managing Global Refugee Crisis


Thursday, 24 September 2016

Gedung BD Fakultas Ilmu Sosial dan Ilmu Politik, Universitas Gadjah Mada


This public lecture aims to discuss the problem of refugee issues, which has been increasing compared to the event of World War II. Southeast Asia as the busiest route in the world also serves as the place where refugee crisis is happening the most. Despite the situation, there are international organizations in Southeast Asia who are working to manage the high influx of refugee into this region. Recently, there is a recent development on Rohingya issues in Myanmar, who have always been marginalized and neglected on their rights to live. This serves as a serious global issue that is not far away from our door. The query then, is it relevant for IR? In the context of International Relations, refugee issues works as the most triggering part to question further whether nation-states system has provided the protection of refugee as subaltern. What really matter is that the refugees are there because of the crack and failure of nation-state system. This issue will bring us up to criticize the interconnection of at least four concepts, namely state, citizen, sovereignty, and territory.

This event invites special guests from the Indonesian Representative of United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNHCR), Ms. Dinna Puspita Hapsari. On the other side, we also have Mr. Lars Stenger who has been working in Indonesia through Jesuit Refugee Service. Each of speaker will talk about their organization perspective on refugees, and the way they treat each of them under respective mechanism.

Ms. Dinna began with providing three main reasons why people move from one place to another place. Economic reasons has become the prominent factor why people move to another place for the sake of higher wage, cheaper living cost, and enjoyable place to live in. The second is social reasons. In the case of someone who is marrying someone from another place, he or she has to move to his or her spouse origin place. This has become common in our society. However, the last reason where people are sometimes neglecting this fact is the security (protection) reason. Some people have to move because of war, conflict, and human rights violation. Living dangerously in their origin place, they decide to migrate to another place for the sake of seeking national protection from states. Although some of them are irregular, this poses a serious problem where the receiving states do not allow them passing through states border. Even some countries do not regard the non-refoulement principle. At this point, border must be seen as a manmade imagination, which is fictionally created by the elites.

Asia Pacific provides the safe place for refugee, particularly Indonesia, which serves as the strategic place for migration. A lot of ports and coastlines give advantage for refugees to berth their boats. However, since Australia declared its new policy to block refugee coming into the country, this situation poses a serious problem for Indonesia whom will has high responsibility accommodating the influx of refugee into the region.

Ms. Dinna explained further about how UNHCR plays its vital role providing the refugee protection under the instruction of the Government of Indonesia. In the case of managing and providing settlement, UNHCR serves as the only international organization who is fully responsible on this issue. UNHCR works under mandates, namely to provide international protection (based on international human rights laws), to seek durable solution for refugee (restore dignity and life), to promote International Refugee Law, and to protect stateless people and Internally Displaced Persons. It also works under Global Sharing Burden where the responsibility to accept refugees should be shared out to each different countries. UNHCR also manages the pull-factor, where refugees who have been living in long-term duration, thus decide to move to another well-living place for settlement.

Notwithstanding, the UNHCR is under-staffed. The high amount of refugees sets problem for UNHCR Indonesia since they have have to spend 24 months for giving the resettlement and status of refugees to 1,200 stateless people. If they decide to maintain the system, we will neglect the fact that we cannot provide protection to all of the refugees. At this point, UNHCR Indonesia claims that they are not in fact managing those refugees instead overwhelmed by this fact.

UNHCR is not only facing the problem of mechanism, but also the administrative problem where they have to proceed the resettlement service of people who are without any proof of identity. For example, Rohingya are born without any birth certificate, passport, and many more, where Indonesia needs all of those administrative stuffs for registration.

Amidst the problem of UNHCR as main organization in settling the problem of refugee, Ms. Dinna also highlights other challenges that are still happening, as follows:

  1. Indonesia has yet to ratify the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol
  2. The absence of comprehensive and operational legislation and regulations for addressing asylum and refugee issues in Indonesia
  3. The use of detention as a refugee and asylum management
  4. Increasing number of asylum applications in Indonesia


In the next session, Mr. Lars Stenger discusses about the role of Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) who is already working globally in wide-ranging regions, such as Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe, Middle East, and South Asia. The unique mechanism they use is involving refugees to work as teachers, health officers, and many more according to their skills. JRS works under three main principles, namely accompany, serve, and advocate. On the daily basis, JRS staffs try to listen to the story of refugees. This practice provides them relief, particularly in understanding of what they are really need. In fact, living under crises and sorority has changed their mindset on the luxury standard. What matters for them is not only eat and live, but to also apply their skills reviving the dignity of life.

JRS comes up with broad definition of refugee. According to JRS, refugee includes the people who are persecuted due to racial, religious, and the membership of social or political group issues; and the victims of armed conflicts, erroneous economic policy, or natural disasters. On the other hand, according to Lars, the refugees are not the crisis. It is the bombing, the torture, the destruction. That is what has been mainly fueling this unprecedented movement of people. To date, JRS has reached 724,500 individual under several services mechanism, such as education, emergency assistance, healthcare, livelihood activities, and social services.

In Africa, JRS has played important role to alleviate the serious threat to people who are being abused due to the endemic sexual violence and the recruitment of child soldiers in Eastern Congo. JRS comes up with campaign to stop people using sexual abuse. Moreover, JRS also puts concern in Asia Pacific through many offices spreading in Thailand, Cambodia, Singapore, Myanmar, Philippines, Indonesia, and Australia. The main activity in this region is assisting refugees in detention.

Before he closed his session, Mr. Stenger underlines the rising concern of xenophobia where western civilizations are afraid of refugees since they look over them as illegal immigrants and even the cells bent from terrorism trying to destroy Western civilization instead of seeing them as naturally as refugees. This is the fact that hampering civil society and humanitarian organization to combat such abnormal thought over refugees.

Q&A Session


  1. I am curious about UNHCR mandate is to protect stateless people. Whether to talk about the Rohingya massacre the refugees are in fact looking for the international protection and fleeing outside the country looking for Muslim-based country. How UNHCR address the issue of legal administration? How Indonesia government can be involved in cooperation with UNHCR?
  2. Is there any kind of particular mechanism to protect refugees while waiting for the status grant?
  3. How can we ensure this refugee to be accepted in society?

Overall Answers:

  1. UNHCR Mandate is not only to protect, but also to prevent statelessness. Indonesia as natural leader should be pushed to negotiate Myanmar in term of Rohingya persecution. However, frankly speaking, the situation is more complex that what we think. The hate is so deep and Aung San Suu Kyi as the Nobel Awardee is disappointing.
  2. UNHCR protection mechanism is there, but failing. We have Regular Detention Center Monitoring in 13 detention centers. It is simply too expensive to travel to Papua. UNHCR lacks of sources.
  3. We should intervene public opinion on refugees making them to think that refugees can be very beneficial for society.
  4. Indonesians are quiet humble. In Aceh, one refugee tells a story that he has been nicely accepted. Listening and understanding their fear can help us to regard refugee as positive subject. Providing communication and creating safe space.

A Single Monetary Regime in ASEAN: Panacea or False Hope


Muhammad Rasyid Ridho[1] & Wening Setyanti[2]

3rd Winner of Call for Essay: ASEAN Community Post 2015

Basically, there are four pillars under ASEAN economic integration: (1) a single market and production base, (2) a highly competitive economic region, (3) a region of equitable economic development, and (4) a region fully integrated into the global economy. From the four pillars that were realized through the AEC, we see the similarity between it, conducted by ASEAN today with the European single market. The European single market refers to the European Union (EU) as one territory without any internal borders or other regulatory obstacles to the free movement of goods and services and the European single market then make a more progressive agenda of their economic integration, called Economic dan Monetary Union (EMU) with euro as their single currency. The single currency presents undeniable advantages: it lowers the costs of financial transactions, makes travel easier, strengthens the role of Europe at international level, etc.[3] From this explanation, will ASEAN economic integration be more progressive by laying down something like EMU? Does it matter to create a model of monetary union as a form of more progressive economic integration in this region?


Questioning Southeast Asia Monetary Union: Economic Inequality among States

Arguably, ASEAN is not yet ready for economically integrated. Why? Because inequality still exist between ASEAN member countries, especially under the economic sector as a key factor of advancement indicator and stability. For example, we have a model to compare and classify the ASEAN member countries, called its ‘level of wealth’ which are wealthiest, middle, and least wealthy countries. Wealthiest are Singapore, Brunei Darussalam, and Malaysia; Thailand, Philippines, and Indonesia can be categorized as middle; the ‘CLMV’ are middle to least wealthy countries per 1993-2010—we can see the gap on figure 1.[4] Although those gaps started to decrease per year, but the economic problems always emerge annually.


From the chart above, we can see that the gap is still going on and the position between actors still not much changed (nearly same as the first order). So far, there is no significant changes in the nearly three decades (per 2016) and it could be our fundamental evidence to prove our scepticism of ASEAN economic advancement based on its inequality and disparity of economic circumstances. The more progressive economic integration such as monetary union and/or single currency seems impossible to be apply in ASEAN.

Preventing the Possibility of Crisis Reoccurrence

The reason why monetary union cannot be applied in Southeast Asian countries is to avoid any possibilities of crises that caused by converging policy in single currency. Just imagine how destructive the subsequent effects if those countries do that kind of manoeuvre to support several domestic programs. The prominent example is European crisis 2008, when most countries face slowdown and credit freeze. If we put ASEAN in this scenario, then because of the striking differences in economic performance by each member, then crisis will engulf all countries in the region.

To prevent the crisis, then there must be a unified fiscal policy. Unfortunately, to unify it means the respective country ability to control its spending has to be restricted and conferred to a higher authority. By this instance, ASEAN become into a new super-state agency. New problem arise, does every country want to bestow their sovereignty to this new agency for unitary monetary stability sake? Most of ASEAN will resort to a specific norm in ASEAN Way, the non-intervention. Thus, the implementation of monetary union is not going to happen in any extent.

Status Quo in Southeast Asian Monetary Regime

The status quo shows us there is no singular monetary regime in this region. By de facto category, countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand are utilizing managed floating system; meanwhile Vietnam pegs her currency to US dollar; Philippines uses flexible exchange rate system with independent characteristic; and Myanmar pegs to special drawing rights.[5]

However, there are many attempts to do cooperation in monetary sector and we deem this situation is sufficient enough to support monetary stability regionally. There are four instruments; first, Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralization (CMIM) is agreement on currency swap between ASEAN+3 central banks. Second, Asian Bond Market Initiative (ABMI), to promote local currency bond market and supported by a specific forum to harmonize regulatory basis.  Third, Credit Guarantee and Investment Facility (CGIF), for helping supplying bonds in local currency. Fourth, ASEAN+3 Macroeconomic Research Office (AMRO) for monitoring macroeconomic trends, evaluating financial sector, and giving policy recommendation for ASEAN+3.[6]

By looking at these points, ASEAN shall reconsider their decision if they are going to establish a single monetary regime, especially by reflecting to EU case. Another aspect that shall take into account is the probability of ASEAN-sceptics’ appearance inside ASEAN, whether they are putting their focus particularly in disagreement over monetary union issue or campaigning ASEAN demise.


Bock, Matthew J. ‘Income Inequality in ASEAN: Perceptions on Regional Stability from Indonesia and the Philippines’ (ASEAN-Canada Working Paper Series no. 1. Singapore: RSIS Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies. 2014).

Ciorciari, John D. “Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralization: International Politics and Institution-Building in Asia.” Asian Survey 21, no. 5 (2011): 926-952.

Rajan, Ramkishen S. Management of Exchange Rate Regimes in Emerging Asia. ADBI Working Paper. Tokyo: Asian Development Bank Institute. 2011.

Verbeken, Dirk. “History of economic and monetary union,” European Parliament. October, 2016. (accessed November 1, 2016).

[1] Student of International Relations Department of Social and Political Sciences Faculty, Universitas Gadjah Mada.

[2] Student of International Relations Department of Social and Political Sciences Faculty, Universitas Gadjah Mada.

[3] Dirk Verbeken, “History of economic and monetary union,” European Parliament, October, 2016, (accessed November 1, 2016)

[4] Matthew J. Bock, ‘Income Inequality in ASEAN: Perceptions on Regional Stability from Indonesia and the Philippines’ (ASEAN-Canada Working Paper Series no. 1, Singapore: RSIS Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies, 2014).

[5] Ramkishen S Rajan, Management of Exchange Rate Regimes in Emerging Asia, ADBI Working Paper, Tokyo: Asian Development Bank Institute, 2011.

[6] John Ciorciari D., “Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralization: International Politics and Institution-Building in Asia,” Asian Survey 21, no. 5 (2011): 936.

Drawing ASEAN Limits and Strengths in Tackling Terrorism: Study Case of Abu Sayyaf Group


Novita Putri Rudiany-Kholifatus Saadah

1st Winner of Call for Essay: “ASEAN Community post 2015”


ASEAN actually had discussed terrorism issue before 9/11 happened, since the summit in 1997 and continued until the signing of the ASEAN Convention on Counter Terrorism in Cebu Philippines on January 13, 2007 (Soesilowati 2011). On average in Southeast Asia, the terrorism issues come from the separatist movement or motion-based Islam. One of the terrorist movement, is the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) which based in the Philippines. They have the principle for attacking other religious groups and believe that violence is the only way in the fight against others (Tan 2001). ASG has close connection with the world terrorist groups, and particularly Janjalani is well-known as Afghanistan war veterans. Recently, the ASG captivity was proven to hijacking action to the vessels crew from Indonesia and Malaysia. As quoted by the BBC (2016) ASG will not release the hostages if no ransom crate desired. Indonesia’s Chief Security Minister, Luhut Pandjaitan, said conditions were carried out by ASG is an act of “New Somalia”. They also proved involved in the number of bombings, kidnappings, assassinations, and extortion activities alleged to them either by the Government of the Philippines, ASEAN and the international community (Banlaoi 2006). This is a challenge for ASEAN, especially what had been done by the ASG is no longer bound by the state but transnational crime.

Regional Security Complex Theory: How ASEAN See the Terrorism as Threat

Regional Security Complex is describing how a regional look at the concept of security in the region, that revealed the concept of security will be shaped by the dynamics which occurred in a certain region. There are at least two main concepts that establish Regional Security Theory Complex (RSCT), first is power relations and second is pattern of amity and enmity. Power relations are concepts that are formed when the dynamics of a particular area then influenced by forces that are owned by its members (Buzan & Waever 2003). This conception will show how a country responds to the actions of other countries in their region, which is based on the relationship of forces between them. In the case of terrorism, as the Philippines could no longer tackle the actions of ASG, this country emphasized terrorism issue as emergency condition that should be responded immidiately. Therefore, there was effort from other ASEAN member countries to establish a framework in order to provision the common understanding in combating terrorism. Moreover, ASG was not only about terrorism but also connected with the human rights violence transnationally.

The second concept is the pattern of amity and enmity. This concept illustrates the pattern of relations between countries will establish, by construction, the dynamics in the region. ASEAN countries began to see the terrorist as a common threat, visible from ACCT formation in 2007. The dynamics that occur in ASEAN has been encouraging members to no longer see that terrorism is a threat to the security of single country, but the Southeast Asia region as a whole. In addition, the constellation internationally outside the Southeast Asian region also formed the view that the ASG is a threat to both members of ASEAN and the international community because the target they were after not only the local population but also involve foreign residents, especially the American (Sailing Totem 2014).

ASEAN Limits in Combating Terrorism

We argue that the limitations lie both in the elite side and the civil society side. First, ASEAN is good in creating framework, but weak in implementing it. Regarding the issue of terrorism, ASEAN works not only among its member states, but also with dialogue partners. Starting from 2001, member countries stipulated “ASEAN Declaration on Joint Action to Counter Terrorism” ( 2016). Five years later, ASEAN Convention on Counter Terrorism established. Then in 2015, there was special ministerial meeting to respond the rise of radicalization and violent extremism. Recently in 2016, ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ announced the statement regarding terrorist attack in Jakarta ( 2016). From this timeline, ASEAN is still having problem in conducting common policy. They took long time to ratification the convention and apply the real action, while the terrorist could have planned the following insurgences.

From the civil society side, first is the Islam majority, but they feel like minority. Radical to extremist Islamic militant spread the issue that the need to uphold the Islamic norms to fight the injustice treatments by the state government. Paying attention to the case of ASG, it is obvious that they demands of the recognition of their existence and aims to build a distant caliphate as it pledged allegiance to the ISIS (Almuttaqi 2016). Second, they usually recruit people from the low economic and education level and organize the training inside the unreachable zone near the states border which is out of government control. These target citizens has no enough information about the propaganda of terrorist. Therefore, they are easily provoked to the promises of the radical and extremist Islamic groups.

Strengthening ASEAN Power to Fight Terrorism

Addressing those two backgrounds of limitations, there are two approaches to strengthen the ASEAN power. On one side is, what the elite should do in creating applicable strategies regionally. On the other side is, how to empower the society and raise the awareness to the terrorist propaganda. At the government level, ASEAN framework in combating terrorism is an enough base to set up real actions. Moreover, the cooperation among some countries has been establish such as sharing intelligence from Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore in 2002 (David 2002). The following should be commitment to push the law enforcement to avoid the reluctant behavior of member countries, and establishing concrete instruments as well. The urgency of reinterpreting ASEAN common understanding does matter. Thus, ASEAN could conduct specific tactics to fight terrorism. Also, transparency in judicial process should be underpin so that anti-terror laws are not used for political purposes but specifically as security tools.

Later, as radical to extremist Islamic militants are targeting the mind of the people, therefore civil society should also play active role to educate each other. Southeast Asia consist of heterogenic ethnics and cultures, thus it is important to put force in respecting human beings. Besides, ASEAN needs to develop local, data-driven restorative approaches to prevent and rehabilitate radicalization (Greer and Watson 2016). In short, ASEAN needs militarily force also increase economic development, social stability, and political participation also need to work for more structural change (Swanstrom dan Bjornehed 2004).

Trump and the Death of ‘Pivot to Asia’ Doctrine


Bara E. Brahmantika, Guest Contributor 

The result of 2016 US election has paved the way for Donald Trump to be the 45th president of United States,  and many people are scrambling to figuring out what it means for the world. Two of my colleagues, Dedi Dinarto and Habibah Hermanadi in ASEAN Studies Center had tried to analyze the the implication of ‘Trump’s Triumph’ on the future of ASEAN. But while both of the analysts are sound, I have serious reservation on how both writers overlook the implication of Trump’s foreign on the ASEAN regional politics.

In my view, Dinarto’s argument on the possibility of the remaking of the global triangle politics is an overestimation on the current global power dynamic between major countries, while Hermanadi’s argument that Trump’s Triumph will inspire a strongmen approach among ASEAN countries leaders who are trying to emulate him is an underestimation of the possible impact of Trump’s foreign policy doctrine. Both I argue are stem from the authors misconception on the core idea of Trump’s foreign policy. So it is imperative for us to understand what Trump’s Foreign Policy is, a transactional policy, with a combined flavor of isolationism and protectionism

Trump’s Foreign Policy.

It is understandable for many to have misconception about Trump’s policy, because for one, Trump isn’t known as a well articulate candidate. In hindsight, hearing Trump talks on foreign policies gave an impression that Trump foreign policy is just a mishmash of ideas with no core philosophy, thus making it difficult to pin point exactly what is Trump’s outlook on foreign policy. But if we look carefully, underneath all of his incoherent rants, a silver lining could be found

And this is where Hermanadi is right about where Donald Trump might be going. Hermanadi describes Donald Trump as Strongman Leader, which will emphasizes on the strength of greatness based on national unity, and national interest. There is no clearer indication of it, than Trump’s vision on America First.

Trump said, in one of his rallies that, “Under a Trump administration, no American citizen will ever again feel that their needs come second to the citizens of a foreign country.”

According to Trump, America First is an attempt to put American citizen’s priority above citizens of foreign countries. Trump has signaling on reduction of US engagement in international stages, and to put national interest above all else, creating this mixed of political isolationism and economic protectionism. But the more interesting bit is on how Trump define US national interest.

According to Dreazen, Vox’s foreign editor, Trump has this simple and basic view on what is US national interest, which is transactional. In the word of Dreazen; “In Trump’s conception, all of foreign policy is motivated by assessment of what’s better, in a narrow financial sense…. Trump believes the everything comes down to the art of transaction, with countries that spend their money the way he wants them to getting more than countries the don’t”

Just take a look at Trump’s statement during his final presidential debate, explaining about his outlook on US foreign policy:

“As far as Japan and other countries, we are being ripped off by everybody — we’re defending other country. We’re spending a fortune doing it. They have the bargain of the century. All I said is we have to renegotiate these agreements because our country cannot afford to defend Saudi Arabia, Japan, Germany, South Korea and many other places. We cannot continue to afford.”

So America First foreign policy basically a policy of which United States will disengage from any international involvement unless U.S. has a clear financial benefit from such arrangement. This is pretty clear from Trump’s statements regarding pulling out from NATO, and Japan if they are not willing to pay an equal amount for funding in exchange for their protection. Or Trump willingness to put up trade barriers, and go to trade wars with China until U.S get a better deal from their trade.  So how does this play out in South East Asia region?

The Death of ‘Pivot to Asia’ doctrine. 

During the presidency of Obama, under the rudder of Secretary Clinton, U.S has put forward a ‘Pivot to Asia’ doctrines, as U.S new strategies to face the new challenges of China growing presence in Asia region. Pivot to Asia was US decision to shift their priority and presences from Middle East and East Europe to Asia. This drove mainly because not only the growing global influence of China, but also the decline of Russia’s sphere of influence. Pivot to Asia was Obama’s solution to help the Asia region mitigates the international conflict, by providing a counter balance to China.

The South East Asia region is included within Obama’s Pivot to East Asia, and has proven to be resulting in greater engagement of the US in South East Asia region, which is evidently pointed out by Obama thirteen times visits, to nine different ASEAN countries during his two terms in office, this in contrast with his predecessor, President Bush, who only managed to visit South East Asia eight times and only to five different ASEAN countries. US has put considerably more resource in South East Asia, raising investment, greater military presence, and overall better relationship with ASEAN Countries. But this ASEAN re-engagement might come to an end, as President Trump is unlikely to follow the suit.

Take a look at few of his statements when it comes to US foreign policy in Asia, in one his foreign policy speech Trump said;

“We have spent trillions of dollars over time on planes, missiles, ships, equipment, building up our military to provide a strong defense for Europe and Asia. The countries we are defending must pay for the cost of this defense, and if not, the U.S. must be prepared to let these countries defend themselves. We have no choice.”

And also during one of his TV interview, he mentioned about what he thinks on US presence in Asia:

“Japan is better if it protects itself against this maniac of North Korea, we are better off frankly if South Korea is going to start protecting itself … they have to protect themselves or they have to pay us.”

Given President-elect Trump statement during his campaign, on how Japan and Korea are better off defending themselves with nuclear, instead of burdening United States financially to provide them with military defence, and how likely he would scrap TPP away. That was a clear signal on how President Trump is eager to end the US re-engagement process in East Asia, which in this case will likely include ASEAN.

This is sentiment that shared by many analysts such us Gillen from National University of Singapore, and Sa from S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, as well as Bisley from La Trobe University. Three of them believe that under Trump, there will be significant realignment of US Foreign Policy, to the point of significant diminish of US political and military presence in ASEAN, or even to the point of disappearing all together. With Sa particularly mentioning that Trump might not know that ASEAN existed in the first place.

Within ASEAN member itself, there are growing concern on how the US-ASEAN relations could be deteriorating under Trump, as rightly pointed out by Dinarto in his piece, that many ASEAN countries such as Singapore, Philippines, and Malaysia to name few, that are seeing deeper relationship with China as more beneficial relationship.

And if we took what president Trump said during his campaign seriously, we probably will see a more traditional approach on US foreign policy to refocus themselves to Middle East, especially on the issue of ISIS and Israel-Palestinian conflict. While at the same time reducing many of US global involvement when it comes to political, and security issues, and refocusing US foreign policy effort to crafting better economic strategy against China domination.

“If China does not stop its illegal activities, including its theft of American trade secrets, I will use every lawful presidential power to remedy trade disputes, including the application of tariffs consistent with Section 201 and 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 and Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962.” Trump said

So how does it affect ASEAN ?

Dinarto has pointed out that the Trump presidency will likely affect ASEAN in two ways, first it will create Global Triangle dynamic among great powers, or as also pointed out by Hermanadi, that it will force ASEAN to reinvigorate the notion of ASEAN Centrality and unity to attain their own national interest and fending off global powers.

The first scenario of the creation of global triangle politics is very unlikely happen in South East Asia, for few reasons. First, the Trump’s foreign policy doctrine dictates that US will reduce all of their involvement to a minimum, and Trump is more than willing to look away from what happened to Crimea and Syria, just to improve US relations with Russia, and preventing the US government to be dragged away to a conflict that doesn’t financially benefiting US. Japanese brokerage firm Nomura, also predicting that Trump would eventually limit investment in South East Asia in an attempt to bring job backs to the US, and with the TPP is likely to be put to shelf by Trump, and also the possibilities of dismantling US military base in Philippines, the US presences in South East Asia, and globally would be reduced significantly.  So US would likely to pull away from intervening in the matter of South China Sea, and would focus their attention on to getting a better trade deal with China, even if it has to comes to trade war.

Second, Russia’s presence in ASEAN is minimal, with Asia- Pacific ranked number four in Russia’s foreign policy priorities, and it is for a reason, because Russia has no significant military objectives in South East Asia, other than selling weaponry and maintaining ties with Vietnam. The share of Russian export in ASEAN is only reach 2.7% in 2014, and Russia’s investment in ASEAN is a meager 0.2% of total Russian investment, or equivalent to 698 million dollars, with almost half of it goes to Vietnam. Currently, when it comes to ASEAN, Russia only hold a status s partnership, in comparison US, China, and Japan all have hold the status of strategic partner. Russia is also in relatively weak position, after the economic embargo and sanction that has been put by US and EU after the Crimea debacles, Russia has been hurt economically, and pretty much dependent on the trade relations with China. Russia and China also hold pretty much the same position on almost every international issues, thus they are more likely to be an ally in South East Asia than adversary. For example, when it comes to South China Sea disputes, despite trying to maintain neutrality for long, the deepening ties between China and Russia, has shift Russian position in favor for China, with Russia clear objection on the use of international court to solve the South China Sea dispute.

Third, all the reasons above left China as the only dominant power in South East Asia region. With TPP likely gone from the picture, the RECP regional bloc and OBOR initiative under the leadership of China are the only major comprehensive economic framework that will affect the ASEAN greatly, thus raised China economic bargaining power greatly within ASEAN. Not to mentioned the ever increasing defence budget and modernization of China’s military that put new emphasize on Navy and Airforce, of which surely increase the ability of Chinese military to project their power in South East Asia.  With China as the only major power that actively engaging with ASEAN, the triangle power dynamic between US-China-Russia in ASEAN is very unlikely to happen, at least not in Trump’s first term.

The more likely scenario is that with China as sole major power influencer in ASEAN, ASEAN countries will band together to strengthening their bargaining position to check China’s influence in the region. But with the rise of the populist movement, nativism, and strongman leader in ASEAN countries, as predicted by Hermanadi, ASEAN countries might use and strengthening ASEAN to serves their national ego and protect them from the global power influence such as China.

But one other point that Hermanadi fails to mention is that the absence of US political presence might strengthening the strongman leaders in ASEAN region and slowing down the advance of human rights implementation in ASEAN. Because US has traditionally become the stable actor that has often claim higher moral ground along with EU when it comes to human rights, which can be shown from the topic discussed at US-ASEAN Summit in the past few years. But under Trump presidency, that will colored by unpredictable isolationist foreign policy, and little regard on human rights, ASEAN might find itself reluctant in pursuing the advancement of human right as their priority. And with no global power to put pressure and scrutiny for those strongmen leaders in ASEAN to respect human rights, then we might find ASEAN to be a less friendlier place for human right to flourish.

So in conclusion, while it is difficult to predict where Donald Trump going to take U.S. foreign policy, as he haven’t yet to took the office, it is fair to say that his foreign policy will focus on re-engagement with US traditional pivot to Middle East, improving relationship with Russia, while at the same time reducing US engagement in other regions, including South East Asia. Coupled with Trump reluctant in resuming the implementation of TPP, and his little regards on promoting democracy and human rights as part of U.S foreign policy, would likely resulting not the re-creation of global power politics, but on sole domination of China as the only great power country in South East Asia, therefore would forces many ASEAN country leaders to unite under ASEAN to better fend off China domination in the region.