Reforms vital for Vietnamese economy to stay on track

Cyclists ride past a large poster advertising luxury cars on a road in Hanoi on July 4, 2012. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Suiwah Leung, ANU

After several years of macroeconomic turmoil, 2013 finally saw a return to some semblance of stability in the Vietnamese economy. There is no time to lose.

The government needs to push through significant reforms in key areas in order to lift long-term growth. Read more…

Peering into Thailand’s turbulent future

A Thai pro-government Red Shirt protester holds a placard showing a picture of caretaker Thai Premier Yingluck Shinawatra during a rally on the outskirts of Bangkok, Thailand, 6 April 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Authors: Pasuk Phongpaichit, Chulalongkorn University, and Chris Baker, Bangkok

The courts may shortly remove Thailand’s prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra.

This would mean that in the past eight years, four prime ministers have been felled and four election results voided — surely a world record. Read more…

Japan and Australia ‘beef up’ relations

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott shakes hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during the National Security Council in Tokyo on 7 April 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Aurelia George Mulgan, UNSW Canberra

The Economic Partnership Agreement that Japan recently signed with Australia (JAEPA) has everything to do with Japanese trade strategy and little if anything to do with agricultural reform.

Some of the commentary on the agreement has argued that JAEPA was the product of Abe’s reform agenda, but it is neither part of that agenda nor will it advance it. Read more…

Can Pakistan free itself from polio?

A Pakistani health worker gives a child a polio vaccine in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, 8 April 2014. Pakistan’s beleaguered battle to eradicate polio is threatening a global, multi-billion dollar campaign to wipe out the disease worldwide. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Sanchita Bhattacharya, Institute for Conflict Management

In February this year, Pakistan’s ambassador Masood Khan told a UN panel that his country, under Nawaz Sharif, hopes to eradicate polio in 2014. How realistic is this goal?

There are only three countries where the polio virus (officially, poliomyelitis) remains endemic: Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. Read more…

Lifting Asia out of poverty needs to be done equally

Plain-clothes construction laborers from the countryside are seen in front of the glittering skyline of Guangzhou, China. Inequality is on the rise in China and across developing Asia with its combined Gini coefficient rising from 39 in the early 1990s to 46 in the late 2000s. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Juzhong Zhuang, Asian Development Bank

Developing-Asia’s impressive growth continues but faces a new challenge — inequality is on the rise. Over the last few decades, the region has lifted people out of poverty at an unprecedented rate. But more recent experience contrasts with the ‘growth with equity’ story that characterised the newly industrialised economies’ transformation in the 1960s and 1970s. Read more…

Indonesia’s poll and presidency on a coalition course…and the Thais that bind

Popular presidential candidate of major opposition party PDI-P and Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo walks with his supporters in Jakarta following the 9 April 2014 legislative election. He came out ahead in the polls but a worse-than-expected election performance by the party means that Indonesia is staring at a coalition government. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

The election for Indonesia’s legislature last Wednesday represents another remarkable achievement in the country’s democratic transition. Indonesians proudly went to the polls and delivered a result that was without major incident and has not yet been disputed (though that may change when the official results are declared in a few weeks). Read more…

No luck for Yingluck as Thai elections nullified

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra casts her ballot in the senate elections at a polling station in Bangkok on 30 March 2014. The NACC has charged Yingluck with malfeasance over her government’s rice-pledging scheme and the senate has the authority to impeach Yingluck. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Chulalongkorn University

The recent decision by Thailand’s Constitutional Court to nullify the 2 February elections has put the country on a collision course between those who advocate electoral democracy, even at the cost of corruption, and others who are bent on unelected rule based on what they see as virtuous moral authority. Read more…

What Indonesia’s legislative polls do and don’t mean

Jakarta Governor and Indonesian Presidential favourite Joko Widodo and his wife Iriana Widodo, after voting in Jakarta on Wednesday April 9, 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Liam Gammon, ANU

Indonesia’s PDI-P party, the home of Soekarno-ist nationalism, was expecting Wednesday’s legislative elections to carry it to a stunning comeback after a decade out of government during the Yudhoyono years.

It had the good fortune of being associated with Joko Widodo (normally known as Jokowi), the Jakarta governor whose mass popularity had convinced PDI-P’s old guard to give him the party’s 2014 presidential nomination. Read more…

India’s Look East policy in need of a relook

Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh listens during the 7th East Asia Summit plenary session as part of the 21st ASEAN summit in Phnom Penh, November 2012. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Tridivesh Singh Maini, New Delhi

Does India’s foreign policy suffer from alack of consistent and innovative outreach policies in Southeast Asia?

At a recent East-West Centre conference in Yangon, most participants seemed to feel the answer was yes. Such criticisms are worth mentioning because India’s immediate neighbours, such as Nepal and Sri Lanka often complain that New Delhi intervenes a touch too much in their internal affairs. Some go so far as to argue that China, in spite of being more powerful than India, does not exhibit the same hegemonistic tendencies. Read more…

US puts the Asian ‘pivot’ into pictures

US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel watches a flight demonstration of MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor V/STOL aircraft on the flight deck of the USS Anchorage during a tour with his counterparts from Southeast Asia, Secretary General of ASEAN Secretariat Le Luong Minh and Defense Minister of Singapore Ng Eng Hen. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Dean, ANU

The ‘rebalance’ to the Asia Pacific is alive and well according to the recently released US Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). If a picture tells a thousand words then the United States Department of Defense’s (DoD) latest strategic policy document has some interesting things to say. Eight of the 22 photos in the document focus on the region, and this outstrips the US homeland — the focus of overall US strategy. Read more…

Is Abe bypassing democracy to push his defence agenda?

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, reviews members of Japan Self-Defense Forces (SDF) during the Self-Defense Forces Day at Asaka Base, north of Tokyo. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Takanori Sonoda, Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation

Is Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s new interpretation of Japan’s Constitution constitutional? Seeking to move his national agenda to revise the regime created after World War II, Abe has repeatedly argued for a new interpretation of Article 9 to allow ‘collective self-defence’ actions by Japan’s Self-Defense Forces. He has said that, as the head of the government, he would take ultimate responsibility for a potential reinterpretation by facing general elections. Read more…

Free trade agreements should happen for the right reason

Former ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan makes a victory sign as he walks into the plenary session on global issues at the ninth Asia Europe Summit at the National Convention Centre in Vientiane, Laos, 6 November 2012. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Stephen Olson, Economic Strategy Institute

Typically, countries pursue free trade agreements (FTA) with each other because they share common negotiating objectives and subscribe to broadly similar economic principles.

And based on those commonalities, they see benefit in deepening their trade and investment relationship by taking on a higher degree of mutual commitments within the context of an FTA or regional trade agreement (RTA). Read more…

Fight or flight for foreign capital in Myanmar?

A girl chats on her mobile phone near Sittwe, Rakhine State, western Myanmar on 30 March 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Josh Wood, ANU

Myanmar is in the midst of a foreign investment boom.

Over the last 12 months it has received over US$3.6 billion of foreign direct investment (FDI), an increase of nearly 300 per cent, according to government figures released in February. Despite this encouraging news, enormous barriers to future investment remain, and if reforms are not quickly enacted, foreign capital may take flight as quickly as it has arrived.   Read more…

Can China win the war on air pollution?

Chinese tourists wear facemasks during a visit to Tiananmen Square as heavy air pollution shrouds Beijing.(Photo: AAP)

Author: Daniel K. Gardner, Smith College

China’s polluted air — so much in the news these days — has been 30 years in the making.

When Deng Xiaoping introduced market reforms in the late 1970s, the country started its steady rise from the economic doldrums, largely through investment in heavy industrialisation. Since then, its GDP has grown about 10 per cent annually, and its economy has displaced Japan’s as the world’s second largest.  Read more…

Why no investor–state arbitration in the Australia–Japan FTA?

Japanese Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Yoshimasa Hayashi and Australian Minister for Trade Andrew Robb lead bilateral negotiations in Tokyo on April 5, 2014. An FTA was concluded on 7 April, 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Luke Nottage, University of Sydney

Australia and Japan finally concluded a bilateral free trade agreement on 7 April 2014.

Some Australian media outlets had prior inklings that negotiations had achieved significant breakthroughs, especially for agricultural market access into Japan, but a frequent assumption was that Australia must have ‘given up’ something major in return. Read more…