SINGAPORE: Asian business leaders want new E-W balance

More than 300 business leaders and professionals gathered to discuss the implications of Asia’s rise and the future of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at the 3rd ASEAN and Asia Forum in Singapore. The forum, organised by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, also polled the delegates on their thoughts on the region’s […]


More than 300 business leaders and professionals gathered to discuss the implications of Asia’s rise and the future of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at the 3rd ASEAN and Asia Forum in Singapore. The forum, organised by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, also polled the delegates on their thoughts on the region’s future. “Political signals are strong from the US-ASEAN summit and Asia Europe meeting,” says Simon Tay, chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs. “The world is looking to ASEAN and Asia. But it is vital to know how businesses here are looking for and finding the opportunities.” The results revealed that more than 80 per cent of all 143 business leaders and professionals polled feel that a new balance between the East and the West must be found, possibly in a new multipolar framework. “Asia does stand out in terms of economic growth rates,” said Denis Hew, regional cooperation specialist with the Asian Development Bank. “But it is too soon to talk of Asia decoupling from US and Europe.” Despite this, the poll also revealed that more than 60 per cent of respondents felt that Asian economies should reduce their dependence on Western markets. Zainal Abidin Rasheed, Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs emphasised this in his keynote address to delegates when he observed that Asia should “reduce their reliance on external demand, strengthen domestic consumption, as well as explore new markets as an engine of growth.” Most respondents also viewed ASEAN’s usefulness to their business favourably, with 82 per cent saying that a more competitive ASEAN would help their business, be it now or in the future. Delegates felt that the best way for ASEAN to compete would be by achieving a single ASEAN market and production base by 2015 (the ASEAN Economic Blueprint.)