Singapore can now breathe easier as the 33rd ASEAN Summit came to a close yesterday, marking the end of its chairmanship. The second ASEAN summit of the year was a “star-studded affair” compared to the earlier one held in April. This summit saw leaders of all 10 ASEAN member states and leaders of key partner nations from outside the region including United States (US) Vice President Mike Pence, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and many more.
Not only was this summit of a higher profile, the issues discussed were important – not only for the region, but possibly for the world too. The attendance of global leaders signalled that ASEAN is no longer just a backwater region at the periphery of Asia, but that the region plays an important role in shaping the future of global politics and trade. The role of ASEAN is even more pertinent as the world enters an era of global uncertainty. The current economic order is marred by growing threats of protectionism as seen by the tariffs introduced by the world’s largest economy, the US. There is also a growing anti-globalist movement, pressuring governments to look inwards rather than encouraging multilateral cooperation – the same movement that led to Brexit in the United Kingdom.