ASEAN is Priority, says Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah

July 25, 2018

Foreign Policy: ASEAN is Priority, says Malaysia’s Foreign Minister  Saifuddin Abdullah

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by  Yiswaree Palansamy

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Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah and his Indonesian counterpart, Retno Marsudi, in Jakarta

“ASEAN is always premium. ASEAN member states really have to come together, be on the same page, not only with China, but any superpower.– Saifuddin

Malaysia’s foreign policy will continue to be focused on strengthening ties with its South-east Asian neighbours, Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah said as China flexes its muscle over the resource-rich region.

But he added that the full extent of the country’s foreign policy will be spelt out by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad when he addresses the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September, Straits Times reported today.

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 “ASEAN is always premium. ASEAN member states really have to come together, be on the same page, not only with China, but any superpower,” Saifuddin told the Singapore daily in an interview yesterday.

The Malaysian Foreign Minister admitted that it will not be easy to manage ties with China, which is also Malaysia’s largest trade partner, noting that other ASEAN members too have significant trade and other bilateral interests with the Asian superpower.

“Security is another story altogether, and ASEAN centrality is missing. We can speak in one voice and negotiate and explain our position better. Hopefully, then China and others will appreciate our position and concerns,” he was quoted saying.

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While Malaysia still holds to the “fundamental principles of non-alignment, non-interference” and does not support violent actions by sovereign powers, Saifuddin expressed confidence that the business community in the 10-member ASEAN will look to Dr Mahathir to play a key role as he has done in the past to safeguard their economic interests.

“The grassroots, the small businessmen, the small-medium enterprises don’t really feel (ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) represents them. Social entrepreneurship is where you can strike a common denominator where people in all 10 member states can benefit.

“We need to bring them as government contractors, if you like, or as empowered non-state actors to play a more active role,” he told the Singapore paper.

Saifuddin also said he hopes to engage Singapore — one of the five founding members of ASEAN — on ways to bring other parties into discussions to enlarge the ASEAN Economic Community and to move away from the concept that the grouping is only for “big people and big companies”.

2 thoughts on “ASEAN is Priority, says Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah

  1. “One page/One voice”? No Tuan…this may be good theory…but a pipe dream at the moment…and not even needed…

    Start with economic development…all else will follow…

  2. After Suharto was forced by IMF head Michel Camdessus to implement “austerity” measures and the sale of Indonesian assets to multinationals, the Indonesian economy collapsed and for a while there were speculations about the viability of the Indonesian state. This historical episode shows how vital it is for each ASEAN nation to be strong economically, socially, and politically. There is a need for people-centred policies in all ASEAN states and self-sufficiency for the organization as a whole. Further, it’s also time for ASEAN to grant membership to East Timor and Papua New Guinea, in order to safeguard those resource-rich nations and thereby strengthen ASEAN itself. Like East Timor, Papua New Guinea has applied for ASEAN membership for some years. With the inclusion of these two island states, ASEAN can begin a coordinated development plan to turn this region into a viable politico-economic unit. ASEAN should welcome economic and military aid if offered by any nation without strings attached. The EU, Russia, China, and the US are invited to help ASEAN develop the latest technologies for regional defence so that it could maintain its independent foreign policy and safeguard its resources.

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