World Economy

ASEAN Leaders Seek Coop. Compatible With Industry 4.0

Southeast Asian countries are looking for stronger regional economic alliances to counter Trump’s protectionist measures
ASEAN Leaders Seek Coop.  Compatible With Industry 4.0 ASEAN Leaders Seek Coop.  Compatible With Industry 4.0

Despite the theme of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, messages of deeper integration and strengthened cooperation made their way into ASEAN leaders’ keynote speeches as they gathered in Ha Noi, Vietnam, for the plenary session of the World Economic Forum on ASEAN.

Realizing the immense opportunities that the new era of digitalization and automation might bring, but still anxious over the daunting challenges, leaders from the regional bloc that represents the world’s fifth largest economy emphasized the need to join hands and work together, VNA reported.

Southeast Asian countries are also looking for stronger regional economic alliances to counter US President Donald Trump’s protectionist measures.

Prime Minister of host country Vietnam Nguyen Xuan Phuc suggested several intraregional cooperation mechanisms in several fields pertinent to Industry 4.0.

Phuc called for a regional data sharing mechanism and a cross-ASEAN mobile network, saying that “data is the cornerstone of Industry 4.0.”

He also regarded the small- and medium-sized enterprise community as “the backbone of the ASEAN economy,” and recommended establishing a talent incubator, saying that a start-up atmosphere is “truly permeating the region” as “ASEAN is known as the cradle of many new and innovative ideas around the world.”

Vietnam also wants to push forward with its agenda of creating an ASEAN education network and system for life-long learning to help people adapt to rapid changes in the job market.

Staying Connected 

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong affirmed ASEAN’s commitment to staying connected and pushing towards resilience and innovation.

“We need to strengthen the rules-based multilateral trading system–it has underpinned our growth and stability but is under pressure and under threat,” he said.

Lee said he was not sure if there would be an agreement this year on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership trade pact, which includes the 10 ASEAN countries plus China, Australia, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.

Sharing the same sentiment, Chinese Vice Premier Hu Chunhua conveyed the country’s message for upholding an open global economy against the threats of rising protectionism.

Without specifically naming the US and President Donald Trump, with whom China is embroiled in an escalating trade war, Hu Chunhua criticized “some countries’ protectionist and unilateral measures that gravely undermine the rule-based trading regime and cause hazard to the world’s economy,” while at the same time, affirming China’s commitments towards an open, connective and inclusive global economy.

“China’s resolve to open its doors even wider will not change, we will pursue opening up at its own pace. This will offer opportunities for ASEAN countries and beyond,” he said.

The Chinese vice premier also took the platform to court ASEAN countries to join its flagship ‘Belt and Road’ initiative, with promises of win-win cooperation, through mutual vision in innovation-driven growth.

Business and trade require a degree of certainty, said Indonesia’s finance minister, Mulyani Indrawati.

Countries in Asia used to rely on the US to lead, she said, but they have no choice but to work together now that the US is no longer taking the same role. “The world is just too big and too important to depend on only one country.” 

San Suu Kyi, state counselor of Myanmar, meanwhile, expressed her conviction that Industry 4.0 will be led by the younger generation, who will use their strength, creativity, and mastery of technology to facilitate the country’s entry into a new era.

“Myanmar is one of those countries that have practically bypassed the industrial revolution and we were forced to run straight into the fourth one,” she said, subtly referring to the “lost decades” of isolationism when Myanmar was under a military junta regime that gave way to a civilian government less than ten years ago.

San Suu Kyi believed that the most crucial aspect of the fourth industrial revolution remains the human factor, with Myanmar’s approach being based on the “creativity, empathy and stewardship of our people, especially of the young.”

In the context of an economic forum, it’s unavoidable that there’s a need for the creativity and talents of the young people to be made ‘marketable’, not just for making money but for helping the whole region close the development gap, she said.

ASEAN trade grew by a value of nearly $1 trillion between 2007 and 2014, according to the World Economic Forum, as the 10-nation bloc has enthusiastically embraced trade liberalization—in contrast to Trump’s policies.

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