“Our trajectory is upwards, their trajectory is probably flat for a considerable period of time, and even after that, their growth is unlikely to be very strong,” Kasiviswanathan Shanmugam said. “Over a very long period of time, we may well overtake them.
“But I wouldn’t hold my breath about that in the medium term. And that can only happen if there is peace and there is harmony and there are no serious tensions - and that’s a very big ‘if.’”
The body has since welcomed Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Brunei into its ranks.
Though ASEAN member countries together have about 600 million people - nearly 100 million more than the 27-nation EU - they are still well behind economically, with a total gross domestic product of $3.1 trillion compared to the EU’s $15.8 trillion.
But trend lines are in their favor. Last year, as several E.U. economies fell into recession, the ASEAN economy grew 4.5 percent - a rate expected to reach roughly 6 percent in 2012.
As its economic clout has surged, ASEAN has sought a growing role in global affairs, most recently in Myanmar, where the ruling military junta has initiated democratic reforms. In April, longtime opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won 40 of 45 seats in the country’s landmark by-elections.
Mr. Shanmugam echoed the ASEAN position that the U.S. should lift all financial restrictions on Myanmar immediately, saying that “sanctions are not very productive” and that it was “better to engage Myanmar.”
The democratic opening, he argued, is “for real, but real doesn’t mean irreversible.”
“I think the president [of Myanmar] is serious,” he said. “The by-election results show that. The series of steps he has taken show that.
“If in October anyone had said that all these steps would have been taken between November and May of this year, most people would’ve said it’s unlikely, so I think Myanmar is on its way toward reforming.”
Mr. Shanmugam cautioned the international community to maintain realistic expectations for progress, saying that “you can’t go from a very low base to something fantastic in a short period of time.”
“There will be lots of hurdles along the way, and it’s for us not to criticize at every hurdle but to try and help,” he said, pointing to Singapore’s own role assisting Myanmar with capacity-building and governance.
ASEAN also has been active in the escalating crisis over the South China Sea, where China - which has island territorial disputes with some ASEAN members - has assumed an increasingly aggressive naval posture.
Earlier this month, at Singapore’s annual Asian Security Summit, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta pledged that 60 percent of U.S. warships would be stationed in the Pacific by 2020.View Entire Story
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
Ben Birnbaum is a reporter covering foreign affairs for The Washington Times. Prior to joining The Times, Birnbaum worked as a reporter-researcher at the New Republic. A Boston-area native, he graduated magna cum laude from Cornell University with a degree in government and psychology. He won multiple collegiate journalism awards for his articles and columns in the Cornell Daily Sun.
By Rand Paul
Obama acts as though we no longer have a Constitution
Independent voices from the TWT Communities
Empowering mind/body/spirit and health dialogue along with cutting-edge, conscious social, political, and world commentary with Adam Omkara. Join the Evolution!
Viewing and reviewing the Los Angeles experimental and classic punk scene with a nod to Rodney's English Disco
One man’s perspective. Exploration and commentary designed to challenge the conventional thinking of day on the political issues affecting our nation.
First over-the-counter column approved for fast and effective relief from even your worst media-induced headache.
Benghazi: The anatomy of a scandal
Vietnam Memorial adds four names
Cinco de Mayo on the Mall
NRA kicks off annual convention
California wildfires wreak havoc