Navigating ASEAN’s Economic Future

Navigating ASEAN’s Economic Future

Looking ahead, ASEAN’s economic path is populated by both challenges and opportunities. US-China trade tensions, rising protectionist sentiments and attempts to diminish the role of multilateral systems have heightened concerns for the stability of the liberal economic order.

On the other hand, ASEAN as a region continues to enjoy high growth rates of 5-7%, with large firms and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) alike buoyed by trends such as the digital economy. ASEAN’s growth potential has attracted trade and investments from all over the world. However, intra-ASEAN trade is about a quarter of ASEAN’s total trade and has not maintained its market share compared with ASEAN’s trade with its external partners.

For this growth momentum to continue, businesses feel that ASEAN needs to intensify economic integration, which involves working on resolving cross border issues such as Non-Tariff Barriers. There is real and hard work that needs to be done, but there are also great benefits associated with greater intra-ASEAN trade.

Objective: To understand the contemporary challenges and opportunities facing ASEAN economies, and how government level efforts such as the conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations can support local businesses.

Key Questions:

  1. What are the key trends impacting the global economic order, and how can ASEAN capitalise on these developments?
  2. How will the simmering trade war between the US and China affect ASEAN’s economic integration process?
  3. How are ASEAN governments supporting businesses through national initiatives and regional frameworks such as RCEP?
  4. How are ASEAN economies positioning themselves to defend the multilateral trading order against calls for a more bilateral system of trade?
  5. How is ASEAN positioning itself to reap the benefits of the digital economy?

Simon Tay, Chairman, Singapore Institute of International Affairs


  1. Chan Chun Sing, Minister of Trade and Industry, Singapore
  2. Datuk Darell Leiking, Minister of International Trade and Industry, Malaysia
  3. Secretary Ramon M. Lopez, Secretary of Trade and Industry, Philippines
  4. Cambodia Economic Minister
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