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ASEAN needs more cohesion to stand on its own

Bloc's ex-chief sees inequality, reliance on external trade as vulnerabilities

Surin Pitsuwan

ASEAN leaderships need a moment of reflection. We are seeing strong anti-globalization sentiment and failures of multilateral arrangements in the West. This certainly dents ASEAN's drive for more openness and more integration. Even before such global moves, a sense of hesitation had been building up among us, about opening up too widely. We agreed to remove tariffs, but nontariff barriers have been raised.

ASEAN needs to be more integrated, more cohesive and to insist on multilateralism. We should trade and invest more among ourselves. Currently, 75% of the region's trade is with non-ASEAN countries.

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