42nd ASEAN summit to begin

The three day-long 42nd ASEAN Summit opens in Labuan Bajo, Indonesia, today. Leaders from the 10-country-bloc, alongside their foreign affairs,

42nd ASEAN summit to begin

42nd ASEAN summit to begin – Photo: ASEAN

The three day-long 42nd ASEAN Summit opens in Labuan Bajo, Indonesia, today.

Leaders from the 10-country-bloc, alongside their foreign affairs, trade and national security ministers, will gather for a wide range of meetings. They are expected to discuss measures to enhance economic integration and ways to strengthen ASEAN’s global standing amid a deteriorating geopolitical security landscape. Still, ASEAN is unlikely to overcome the existing rift between its members who want to take a tougher stance on China and Russia and those who rely on trade with and diplomatic support by Beijing.

Enhancing ASEAN’s attractiveness to foreign investment will likely also be discussed. The bloc is keen to attract firms currently looking to divest their manufacturing base away from China. ASEAN offers cheaper labor costs, but red tape and underdeveloped high-tech industries remain an obstacle.

Another topic will be Timor-Leste’s bid to become the final Southeast Asian country to join the bloc. The Prime Minister of Timor-Leste, Taur Matan Ruak, has confirmed he would personally attend the summit. Indonesia’s vocal support for Timor-Leste’s application make progress likely, but there have been concerns from other members due to the small country’s low development status and over-reliance on oil and gas revenue.