ASEAN-G20-APEC trilogy in Asia: Mapping recovery pathways


Sonny Coloma

In 10 days, Nov. 10 to 19, three significant meetings of global leaders will have taken place in Asia: first, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia; second, the Group of 20, or G20, summit in Bali, Indonesia; and third, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders meeting in Bangkok, Thailand.

Eight APEC leaders will also attend the G20 summit, namely, the presidents or prime ministers of Australia, Canada, China, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the United States. This means more “face time” and enhanced opportunities for hearing and understanding each other’s views on headline issues.

The 12 other G20 members are: Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, India, Italy, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the European Union.  The 12 APEC members that do not belong to the G20 are: Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Hong Kong China; Malaysia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Thailand and Vietnam.

All told, the ASEAN, the G20 and the APEC summits involve almost 40 countries.

Together, the nations of the G20 account for around 80 percent of global economic output, nearly 75 percent of global exports, and about 60 percent of the world's population. APEC's member economies are home to more than 2.9 billion people and make up over 60 percent of global GDP. Taken together, all the ASEAN countries would constitute the seventh largest economy in the world.

Viewed alternatively, the G20, APEC, and ASEAN constitute the most formidable subset of the United Nations.

Recover Together, Recover Stronger is the G20 summit theme. This is like APEC’s theme: Open, Connect, Balance. Both themes tackle the challenges being faced by peoples the world over seeking to rebuild their lives after their traumatic experience with the coronavirus pandemic. ASEAN’s theme, Addressing Challenges Together, exudes a similar theme on the importance of solidarity and unified action

Recovery starts with reopening cross-borders and economies. It is enhanced by heightened connectivity that is enabled by digital acceleration. Imbalances and inequities are offshoots of disruption brought on not just by Covid-19 but by human conflict, such as the Ukraine-Russia confrontation and the scourge of global warming and climate change.

Summits showcase the fine art of diplomacy on a high-profile stage. These also reflect the prevailing state of world affairs. For instance, Russian President Vladimir Putin has opted to send his foreign minister to sidestep the fallout from the ongoing conflict with Ukraine. As China is also one of its dialogue partners, it was not surprising or unusual for ASEAN countries involved in crafting a formal Code of Conduct in the South China Sea not to have brought up this matter in the Phnom Penh summit that was chaired by Cambodia, a China ally.

Other conflicts that may not even be formally discussed on the conference table but would still involve the G20 and APEC leaders include: the US-China disagreement over Taiwan, imminent widespread hunger in Afghanistan triggered by the cutoff of western assistance, Islamist militancy in Africa and the instability in Myanmar that continues to be a high-level concern in Southeast Asia.

In the recently concluded ASEAN summit, the bloc’s five-point resolution on Myanmar was reiterated, but it was evident that no real progress has been achieved. Recall that Myanmar was excluded from attending the ASEAN summit after the military coup that deposed its erstwhile leader, Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

One of the focal points in the Bali summit is Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s initiative on the phaseout of coal with the support of affluent countries. As reported by Bloomberg, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) is studying similar plans for the Philippines and Vietnam that could be announced during the summit. Phasing out coal would be a significant contributor to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming and climate change – a bane to climate vulnerable countries like the Philippines.

Another possible beneficial outcome is the expected signing of an agreement among the central banks of Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines to link their payment systems through QR code scanning. This system would allow for local currency settlements, bypassing the need for the US dollar as an intermediary.

Hopes run high that these twin summits would pay off for the Philippines’ sustained recovery and growth.