ASEAN'S ROLE AND RELEVANCE IN GLOBAL STRATEGIC DEVELOPMENTS

Her Excellency Ambassador Jane Duke, Permanent Representative to ASEAN for Australia,

Dr James Boutilier, Special Advisor of the Canadian Department of National Defence,

Dr Tim Huxley, Executive Director of IISS,

Delegates of the Southeast Asian Young Leaders' Programme,

Distinguished guests,

A very good afternoon to you all.

2 Thank you for inviting me to join you for this special lunch gathering and share Singapore's perspective on a very important topic � which is ASEAN's role and relevance in global strategic developments. I am indeed very honoured to be part of this second iteration of this SEA Young Leaders Programme. This programme is important because it enables the next generation of thought leaders and decision-makers � like yourselves� to come together to exchange views on the major strategic and security issues of the day. The discussions at the Shangri- La Dialogue, as you have experienced over the last couple of days, reflect the changing geopolitical landscape that we find ourselves in 2017 and the challenges we face as a global community. Amidst an uncertain global environment, voices in favour of nationalism and protectionism have gathered steam. As these forces tug in various directions, the Shangri-La Dialogue and SEAYLP's role in catalysing meaningful dialogue and making sense of such dynamics is invaluable.

3 This year marks ASEAN's Golden Jubilee. It is a great achievement that 10 very different Member States have remained united through the ebb and flow of geopolitical events of the past 50 years. ASEAN has not only survived, it has prospered.

4 Yet, as we celebrate this achievement, it is opportune to ask ourselves the question embodied in today's discussion topic: what is ASEAN's role and relevance in global strategic developments? There is much that can be said in response to this question but I will keep my remarks short as I am keen to hear from you, and leave time for comments and questions and discussions. I will make three points on how ASEAN continues to anchor our future and the pitfalls we must avoid in order to realise our potential as a region of promise and opportunity.

5 First, ASEAN's relevance lies in what we collectively represent in economically tangible terms. As an economic bloc, ASEAN presents a big opportunity for other countries. Let me cite some statistics. ASEAN is a bloc of 630 million people. Although we only have a combined GDP of US$2.5 trillion, we are young, and we are growing. This US$2.5 trillion is going to increase several-fold over the next two decades. In fact, ASEAN's average annual growth over the last decade is 6 per cent, compared to the global average of 4 per cent. ASEAN is projected to become the world's fourth-largest single market by 2030 (after EU, US and China). When US Vice President Mike Pence visited the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta in April, he said that the US exports US$100 billion worth of goods and services to Southeast Asia every year. This creates more than half a million American jobs in the US. The stock of American investments in Southeast Asia is also US$273.5 billion as of 2016. This number is larger than the combined stock of American investments in China, India and Japan. In this day and age, weapons and wars are no longer the only currency of strategy and security. Trade itself is strategy. As a collective, ASEAN therefore matters to all powers and is unavoidably relevant to the global security landscape. But for all of us here from the 10 Southeast Asian countries, membership in ASEAN also means that we have that opportunity to tap on its tremendous growth potential and opportunities. What this also means in practical terms is more trade and investment flows, better jobs and higher incomes for everyone.

6 Second, ASEAN plays a key role in global strategic developments because our ASEAN-centred regional architecture provides an important and neutral platform for various stakeholders to cooperate and work towards managing difficult geopolitical issues. Through regular interactions and dialogue in the web of ASEAN-led processes such as the ASEAN Plus Three (APT), East Asia Summit (EAS), ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting (ADMM)-Plus, Leaders, Ministers and officials in the region have built personal rapport and mutual understanding. This creates a conducive environment for us to resolve our differences peacefully and maintain peace and stability in the region. For example, ASEAN and China recently concluded negotiations on the draft framework for the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC). Within this process, ASEAN and China have also implemented other measures that help manage the situation on the ground. This includes the MFA-to-MFA hotline for maritime emergencies and the application of the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) in the South China Sea. These measures go a long way in ensuring that tensions do not translate into actual conflict, even while the complex disputes are being resolved. In this regard, ASEAN has provided a valuable platform through which various ASEAN Member States can continue to engage our external partners through peaceful dialogue. The Special ASEAN-US Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Washington DC on 4 May 2017 is another example of such engagement. As this year also marks the 40th anniversary of ASEAN-US dialogue relations, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met the ASEAN Foreign Ministers to discuss cooperation on regional and international security issues, as well as to reaffirm ASEAN and the US' commitment towards deepening the multi-faceted ASEAN-US Strategic Partnership. Another recent example was the ARF Workshop on Preventive Diplomacy in a Post-Conflict Environment held in Dili in April. Singapore was Co-Chair, along with New Zealand and Timor-Leste, and this workshop was a useful platform to bring together government officials, policy-makers and academics from ARF Member States to exchange views on preventive diplomacy, with a focus on practices, skills and tools for use within a post-conflict environment. While we acknowledge that it is not the most efficient way to do things, ASEAN's often criticised consensus decision-making model has some merit. It dissuades countries from having zero-sum-game mentalities during consultations, and provides the space for common understanding to be found even on the most difficult issues.

7 Third, ASEAN enables us to collectively tackle evolving transnational challenges such as violent extremism, cyber security and maritime threats. The terror attack at the Manchester Arena last week is a warning that violent extremism continues to pose a clear and present danger and must not be taken lightly. Closer to home, the attacks in downtown Jakarta and Puchong, Malaysia last year and in East Jakarta just last week, and again just yesterday in London, are a reminder that our region is not immune from these threats. Governments in the region have to remain vigilant and work together, both in prevention as well as managing the aftermath of such attacks. We cannot afford to allow violent extremism to undermine the peace and stability of the region or tear apart the domestic fabric of our societies.

8 On the cyber security front, the recent WannaCry ransomware attacks affected hundreds of thousands of computer systems around the world, including in Singapore. This had a very real impact, shutting down critical infrastructure such as train and hospital networks and disrupting people's livelihoods. As our countries become more inter-connected, the impact of a cyber-attack in one country can quickly spill over to another country. Cooperating bilaterally and through regional platforms such as ASEAN allows us to counter transnational threats such as violent extremism and cyber-attacks more effectively through capacity building and intelligence sharing.

9 On maritime security, ASEAN's consistent approach has been to look at the transboundary nature of maritime issues and address them in a holistic, integrated and comprehensive way. ASEAN Member States cooperate on maritime issues in a variety of ASEAN fora, such as the ARF and the ASEAN Maritime Forum (AMF)/Expanded AMF (EAMF), the ADMM, the ADMM-Plus and the ASEAN Navy Chiefs' Meetings. An example of effective regional cooperative efforts is the Malacca Strait Patrols (MSP), a joint undertaking by the littoral states of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, to enhance maritime security in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore (SOMS). The MSP has been able to substantially reduce the number of incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships occurring in the SOMS.

Challenges

10 The global architecture today is much more complex than it was at ASEAN's founding. For ASEAN to maintain its valuable role and relevance to global strategic developments, it must be resilient and adaptable. It must preserve its unity, avoid picking sides, and remain a neutral platform through which all stakeholders are comfortable engaging. We must be nimble to pursue an omnidirectional foreign policy, simultaneously balancing, engaging and hedging among the major powers in our region. ASEAN engages all our Dialogue Partners on multiple forums and across different levels, such as at the Leaders' level during the ASEAN Summit and EAS, the Ministerial level during the ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting, at the Senior Officials' level, and among the experts across various technical agencies. This cross-sectoral and inclusive approach ensures that we remain simultaneously engaged with a variety of partners without privileging one over another. Above all, we need to retain our centrality and independence so that we are respected by our partners.

11 I would also like to suggest that we view these challenges ahead of us as opportunities through which we can further fortify ASEAN's role and relevance in the global strategic landscape. We have much to be proud of in our 50th year. But we must not rest on our laurels. As the next generation of leaders, you must carry the torch and continue to build on what ASEAN's founding fathers have created. You must also remember that there will be new challenges ahead. This will require ASEAN to be innovative in our responses to, and anticipation of, these challenges.

12 I hope you enjoyed your time in Singapore, and found the Shangri-La Dialogue an insightful and fruitful experience. I also hope that all of you continue with the many thoughtful debates inspired by the Shangri-La Dialogue, which is our region's premier Track 1.5 political-security dialogue that Singapore is proud to play host to. I look forward to hearing your views on ASEAN, and will be happy to take your comments and questions.

Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Singapore