“As Australia works at being ASEAN’s ‘leading partner,’ government officials and public intellectuals may well have to engage in more serious dialogue about values and ideology.”
Anthony Milner commends Australia’s aim to become a key partner of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), but also identifies several challenges in this goal.
For example, Australia needs to navigate differences between ASEAN’s objectives and its own; including between ASEAN’s desired neutrality in great power relations and Australia’s support of an emerging quadrilateral security arrangement (which includes the US, Japan, and India).
Canberra may also need to explain its focus on the Pacific and “Indo-Pacific,” a concept that some regard as contrary to ASEAN’s focus on East Asia and as “anti-China.”
LKI Take: Given its location and strategic neutrality, Sri Lanka is a natural and potential key partner of ASEAN. Its recent FTA with Singapore and now potential FTAs with Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia are positive steps towards such a partnership.
“[The CFTA] could double intra-African trade and bring enormous benefits to the continent. But much will depend on the arrangement’s final shape.”
Francis Mangeni highlights economic factors that African states need to manage to benefit from the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA), recently signed by 44 states.
Intra-African trade currently covers only a few products lines. States should therefore not exclude the most-traded products from the CFTA, which may make the CFTA largely redundant.
It takes time to develop trade rules. To expedite the CFTA, African countries may therefore need to set general rules rather than product-specific rules.
LKI Take: Africa’s CFTA is a notable exception to current trends against multilateralism and free trade. It is an encouraging development as Sri Lanka prepares to chair the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), which has an FTA under negotiation.
*Written by Barana Waidyatilake, with research assistance from Nimaya Harris, and edited by Anishka De Zylva. The opinions expressed in this Weekly Brief are the authors’ own and not the institutional views of LKI, and do not necessarily reflect the position of any other institution or individual with which the authors are affiliated.
Please note that there will be no Weekly Insights next week due to the Sinhala and Tamil New Year. We will back on 17 April with the best commentary from the world of foreign policy and international relations.
A think tank engaging in independent research of Sri Lanka’s international relations and strategic interests, to provide insights and recommendations that advance justice, peace, prosperity, and sustainability.