TPPing over?

Japanese Economy Minister Akira Amari listens during a press conference at the Trans-Pacific Partnership Ministerial Meeting in Singapore, 20 May 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Jayant Menon, ADB

Why is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) taking so long to conclude? It has already missed three deadlines, the latest being October 2013. And President Barack Obama’s recent Asia visit did not produce the widely anticipated push towards the finish line. And what will the TPP will look like when finally concluded? Despite WikiLeaks’ best efforts, the negotiations are walled by secrecy. Will the TPP be the comprehensive twenty-first century agreement proponents tout? Or will it wallow as a watered-down compromise, riddled with exemptions, as detractors predict? Read more…

Onus falls on G20 to manage political tensions

Ukrainian army soldiers stand guard at a checkpoint on the road near the eastern city of Izyum, in the Kharkiv region, on May 16, 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Bruce Jones, Brookings

Five years have passed since the peak of the global financial crisis and the elevation of the G20 from a meeting of finance ministers to a meeting of leaders. The organisation has helped states to make substantial progress towards financial recovery, although there is still more work to be done on preventing the next financial crisis. Read more…

Indonesia’s democratic strength

Two Indonesian women show their fingers marked with ink after they voted at a polling station in Banda Aceh, 9 July 2014. Although uncertainties will remain until the last vote is counted, this election is a great victory for the people of Indonesia. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

Democracy has taken a battering in Southeast Asia in recent times, as Thailand, the region’s second-largest economy and one of its economic success stories over the past few decades, has fallen prey to yet another military coup. So it is with a mixture of pride and relief that Indonesia — the region’s largest economy, the world’s third-largest democracy, the world’s largest Muslim country and the epicentre of the ASEAN polity — is on the cusp of successful completion of the election of its new president Read more…

Indonesian democracy stronger, but not yet out of the danger zone

Indonesian presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto applauds after addressing a rally on 11 July 2014. Both sides claimed victory on 9 July 2014 in the tightest and most divisive Indonesian presidential election since the end of authoritarian rule. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Edward Aspinall, ANU

Last week’s presidential election will be remembered as one of the most significant events in Indonesia’s modern history. The all-but-certain defeat of ex-general Prabowo Subianto, and the election of Jakarta governor Joko Widodo (Jokowi), represents not only the victory of one candidate over another but also the preservation of Indonesia’s post-Suharto democratic system — if only by the skin of its teeth. Read more…

Indonesia’s presidential elections: Jokowi in, Prabowo out

Indonesian electoral officials check ballot boxes at a local election center the day after presidential elections in Jakarta on 10 July, 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Marcus Mietzner, ANU
Indonesians went to the polls on 9 July to elect a successor to Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who had served two terms between 2004 and 2014 and thus was constitutionally barred from seeking re-election.

Two candidates stood in the elections, and the contrast between them couldn’t have been starker: Read more…

Indonesia on the precipice of progress

Indonesian presidential candidate Joko Widodo gestures to journalists after a press conference in Jakarta on 10 July, 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Andrew MacIntyre, RMIT University

Let’s start with the good news.

Indonesia, the world’s third largest democracy and largest Muslim country, has succeeded in conducting a very robust and yet peaceful direct presidential election — for the third time in succession. In the hours following the close of voting, it looked as though there was a narrow but clear victory for Joko Widodo (Jokowi). Read more…

Russo–Japanese relations, bleak as ever

The turret of an old tank set in the ground as a part of war fortifications on Kunashiri Island, one of the disputed Northern Territories/ Kuril Islands. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Dmitry Filippov, University of Sheffield

The large-scale natural-gas deal struck on 21 May between Russia and China does not bode well for Japan’s relationship with Russia. With the Japanese government ratcheting up anti-Russian sanctions and temporarily suspending talks over the Northern Territories/Kuril Islands, the prospects of Japan hastening the resolution of the territorial dispute, and improving ties with Russia as a counterbalance to China remain as frail as ever. Read more…

Inequality and the nature of capital: a reminder to economists

A panda eating bamboo shoots. So long as policymakers continue to see the world through the lens of economic capital alone, the damage done to human, social and natural capital will go unnoticed. (Photo: Ted Abbott/ Flickr).

Author: Chandran Nair, GIFT

Despite the recent economic crises that hit suddenly and caught economists by surprise, they still hold sway with the media, policymakers and business leaders. Thomas Piketty’s book Capital in the Twenty-First Century has made waves not just in the world of economics but also internationally as a best-seller. His argument is that the ‘normal’ state of capitalism is one where the rate of return on capital exceeds economic growth, therefore allowing high rates of inequality to persist over the long run. Read more…

Export-oriented FDI can jumpstart Indian manufacturing

Indian laborers nap during a lunch break at a workshop in Mumbai, India, 31 May 2010. (Photo: AAP).

Authors: Abhirup Bhunia, Institute of Economic Growth and Geethanjali Nataraj, Observer Research Foundation

Addressing a joint session of parliament, Indian president Pranab Mukherjee laid out the roadmap of the new Modi government by emphasising three distinct economic policy thrusts: FDI, jobs and manufacturing. Talk of encouraging investment — including by foreign investors — and boosting labour-intensive manufacturing is not new. Scholars such as Arvind Panagariya have long attributed India’s poor performance in manufacturing to the lack of suitable policy designed to utilise the country’s abundant unskilled labour force. Read more…

Why Abe is out of touch on the comfort women controversies

Felicidad Delos Reyes, 85, a former Filipino comfort woman, one of many women forced to serve for the Japanese Army as sexual slaves during World War II, joins a protest outside the Japanese embassy in Pasay city, the Philippines, 25 June 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Mikyoung Kim, Hiroshima Peace Institute

Ever since Shinzo Abe’s second stint as prime minister began in December 2012, his administration has been forging a worrisome trajectory for Japan’s foreign policy. Abe was re-elected because the Japanese people considered him a strong leader who would revive Japan’s ageing society and energise its declining economy. And Abe has initiated a series of bold policies regarding the economy, national defence and foreign affairs. But his motives and strategies raise concerns about maintaining peace and stability in East Asia. Read more…

Chinese loans will counterbalance Russia’s influence in Kazakhstan

Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko shake hands following the signing ceremony for the Eurasian Union in Astana, Kazakhstan, 29 May 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Micha’el Tanchum, Shalem College

On 29 May 2014, the presidents of Kazakhstan, Russia, and Belarus signed a treaty establishing the Eurasian Economic Union (EaEU). One week prior, Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Chinese President Xi Jinping announced investment agreements worth US$10 billion. The timing of the two events reflects Nazarbayev’s determination to use Kazakhstan’s burgeoning economic relations with China to counterbalance possible Russian domination. Read more…

Making monetary policy work in Sri Lanka

A Sri Lankan vendor pushs a handcart laden with bananas on a street in Colombo, 3 September 2013. After armed separatist conflict four years ago Sri Lanka expected to become the tiger economy of South Asia, but exuberance has given way to mediocre growth and fears of more trouble ahead. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Dushni Weerakoon, IPS

The Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) announced in February 2014 that the country maintained single-digit inflation for five consecutive years for the first time since independence. For a country that has historically suffered from both high and volatile rates of inflation, this achievement is no mean feat. The scale of this accomplishment becomes clear when comparing the country’s monetary environment to that of 2008, when annual inflation peaked at 22.6 per cent before settling to single-digit levels from February 2009. Read more…

Rebalancing as the Rorschach inkblot test

US Secretary of State John Kerry addresses the joint opening session of the US China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Beijing, China, 9 July 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Brad Glosserman, Pacific Forum CSIS

Since it was first announced in late 2011, the US rebalance to Asia has become the great foreign policy ‘Rorschach test’ — what one sees in the rebalance says more about the observer than it does about the policy itself.

One school sees the rebalance as an effort to realise the goals laid out in President Obama’s 2009 National Security Strategy: it aims to tap the dynamism of the world’s most productive region to revitalise the US economy, sapped by a decade of war. Read more…

The Abe and Abbott show: a meeting of minds and interests

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks at a joint press conference with his Australian counterpart Tony Abbott at Parliament House in Canberra, 8 July 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Jim Rolfe, Victoria University of Wellington

The ANZUS Treaty was signed 63 years ago by Australia, New Zealand and the United States, in part as a counter to the US security treaty with Japan and the final peace agreement following the end of World War II. ANZUS then was intended to stand against any possible resurgence of Japanese military power in the Asia Pacific region. Read more…

China must accept slower growth to avoid no growth

Members of the Politburo Standing Committee, including President Xi Jinping, raise their hands to vote on reforms at the third plenary session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China in Beijing, 12 November 2013. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Ligang Song, ANU

In late 2013 the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee authorised far-reaching market-oriented reforms, including policies to deepen capital, labour, goods and services markets. The new model for economic growth seeks to increase the consumption and services share of the economy, raise the relative income of poorer people (especially rural residents and unskilled urban workers), and reduce environmental degradation. Read more…