Friday, 19 February 2016

US-ASEAN Leaders Summit Sunnylands 2016

PM Lee Hsien Loong flags anti-trade rhetoric of US presidential hopefuls
This could make it harder for them to change stance on TPP free trade pact later, he says
By Jeremy Au Yong, US Bureau Chief In Sunnylands, California, The Straits Times, 18 Feb 2016

While Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong remains hopeful that the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade pact will be ratified before United States President Barack Obama leaves office next year, he is concerned about the anti-trade rhetoric coming from candidates vying for the White House.

At the heart of the problem, Mr Lee said, is the way the campaign messages could sway opinions.

"It sours the mood on the ground, because by working up these sentiments, the candidates make it harder later - if in fact they want to sign it - to change their position. Meanwhile, people would have been entrenched in their attitudes," he said in an interview with Singapore media after attending the second day of the US-ASEAN Leaders Summit.

"So it is always a worry and it is not quite done, but we hope very much that President Obama will be able to clear this and not leave it as unfinished business for his successor."

Mr Lee wrapped up his week- long visit to the US on Tuesday.

The 12-nation TPP - of which Singapore is a founding member - has been berated as a bad deal by both Republican and Democratic presidential candidates on the campaign trail.

Even normally pro-trade Republicans have called it a bad deal, while Democratic front runner Hillary Clinton has also turned against it despite having supported the pact when she was secretary of state during Mr Obama's first term.

Mr Lee noted also that the nature of American politics is such that campaign rhetoric may not always reflect what a candidate is going to do after he wins the presidency.

"I mean, if you look at the history of it, on the campaign trail, often you have a candidate or many candidates who take strident positions against China. But when they become president, all of them have to look at the problem seriously, reality sinks home and almost every president since (Richard) Nixon has concluded that he has a stable, sound relationship with China. So we hope that will be the case for the TPP," he said.

President Obama Takes Family Photo with ASEAN Leaders
President Obama and #ASEAN leaders posed for a photo at #USASEAN2016 Summit, at Sunnylands, in Rancho Mirage, California, February 16, 2016.
Posted by U.S. Department of State on Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The summit concluded on Tuesday with the leaders taking a group photograph in front of the scenic desert mountains that surround the Sunnylands estate.

Over the course of two days, the leaders discussed a wide range of issues, ranging from trade and security to terrorism and climate change.

The US also unveiled a new ASEAN-US Connect programme, meant to boost economic engagement in the region.

At the session on transnational challenges on Tuesday, Mr Lee warned that South-east Asia is vulnerable to the threat posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria militant group, even though the region is far from the Middle East. He also urged the US to continue to exercise its leadership on climate change.

He said in the interview with Singapore media that the discussions at the summit were good, with the main takeaway being the indication of how much weight the US gives to its partnership with ASEAN.

"This administration wants to do all it can to institutionalise it (the relationship) so that the next administration, whoever is president and whichever party is in power, will take it another step forward, which is good for ASEAN and good for the US."

The ASEAN-US Leaders’ Summit at Sunnylands went well. The issues we discussed included terrorism, climate change and...
Posted by Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Leaders of ASEAN and the US gathered in Sunnylands, California, on February 15-16, 2016, for a Special Leaders...
Posted by ASEAN on Tuesday, February 16, 2016

"I believe this summit has put the U.S.-ASEAN partnership on a new trajectory that will carry us to even greater heights...
Posted by U.S. Department of State on Tuesday, February 16, 2016

To lure tech experts home, 'rethink what engineering means'
By Jeremy Au Yong, The Straits Times, 18 Feb 2016

As Singapore seeks to inject more innovation into its economy, Mr Linus Lee, 29, would appear to be just the sort of tech professional it wants to lure back home.

Mr Lee, a data science manager with Twitter who has been working in Silicon Valley for about five years, has recently been exploring opportunities in Singapore.

But he told The Straits Times the fact that engineers remain undervalued in the country is factoring into his decision.

"A lot of the brightest students, if they remain in Singapore, go into law and finance, whereas in the US, in the top universities, the brightest students choose engineering because it is actually a career where they can build stuff," he said.

"Building things is regarded very highly in the US, whereas in Singapore it's not there yet."

That sentiment was something Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he heard expressed repeatedly by engineers he met in San Francisco and Silicon Valley last week.

Chatting with Singaporeans working at Google. Many of them are engineers, and we talked about how we must make engineering more attractive as a career in Singapore. (MCI Photo by Kenji Soon)
Posted by Lee Hsien Loong on Thursday, February 11, 2016

PM Lee agreed that Singaporean companies do not always treat engineering as the core of the business and that this needs to change.

"They see it as a support function - my computer is broken, call an engineer and fix it. That's a different conception, and we really need to reposition our conception of what engineering is about, and how important engineering is to us," he said during an interview to wrap up his week-long United States visit.

Still, Mr Lee stressed that it would not be easy to get Singaporeans in Silicon Valley to return. "It's not just a matter of pay or having a job - they can find jobs. But to have the same challenge, same excitement, the same kind of technical demand on the person so he feels he is stretching the envelope and doing something meaningful... we need to work at that," he said.

He said the Infocomm Development Authority is working on proposals to try to draw tech experts back home - for instance, a programme for them to do short stints in Singapore - and will be announcing them soon.

His remarks come as the civil service is making a push to boost the number of engineers in its ranks.

This week, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean announced that the Government, the country's largest employer, will hire 1,000 engineers this year, expanding the existing pool by more than 13 per cent.

China has deployed missiles to disputed isle: Reports
News comes hours after US-ASEAN talks that included steps to ease S. China Sea tensions
By Jeremy Au Yong, US Bureau Chief In Sunnylands, California, The Straits Times, 18 Feb 2016

Hours after the United States hosted a historic meeting with ASEAN leaders that also discussed steps to lower tensions in the South China Sea, reports emerged that China had deployed surface-to-air missiles to a disputed island it controls.

Beijing's move, which analysts said sharply raises the level of militarisation in the region, rattled neighbouring governments as it drew swift condemnation.

Satellite images released by Fox News showed two batteries of missiles and a radar system on Woody Island, part of the Paracel chain also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam.

Admiral Harry Harris, who heads the US Pacific Command, said the deployment marked a "militarisation of the South China Sea", through which US$5 trillion (S$7 trillion) in ship-borne trade passes every year. Japan, embroiled in a separate territorial dispute with China, questioned Beijing's "unilateral move to change the status quo".

Taiwanese President-elect Tsai Ing-wen said the deployment raised regional tensions. There was no official reaction from Vietnam.

Beijing says Western media reports that China has positioned missiles on the Xisha Islands in the South China Sea are nothing but a hype.CCTV has the latest.
Posted by CCTV on Wednesday, February 17, 2016

China dismissed suggestions that it was militarising the region. Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who did not confirm or deny the deployment, insisted that Beijing was entitled to "limited and necessary self-defence facilities" under international law.

The tense diplomatic exchange was a far cry from the apparently more restrained discussions on territorial disputes in the South China Sea at the two-day US-ASEAN Leaders Summit hosted by US President Barack Obama.

An anticipated US warning to China about bullying smaller nations in the region did not materialise. This, despite Vietnamese Premier Nguyen Tan Dung's call on the first day of the summit on Monday for the US to use a "stronger voice and more practical and more efficient actions".

At a post-summit press conference, Mr Obama reiterated US commitment to freedom of navigation and regional order, while saying the leaders discussed "tangible steps" to ease tensions, including a "halt to further reclamation, new construction and militarisation of disputed areas".

A 10-point joint statement issued after the summit also raised eyebrows because it did not explicitly name China.

It was not immediately clear if the summit leaders knew about the missile deployment beforehand or if it was discussed at their meeting.

Speaking to Singapore media after the summit but before the news of the deployment broke, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the response to the South China Sea issue "is not just verbal statements".

"It is how countries act on the ground, how countries cooperate, negotiate with one another and work out practical solutions which will enable us to get along even though we may have disagreements or conflicting views."

And he pushed back on suggestions that China might take objection to the meeting between Mr Obama and ASEAN leaders.

"I do not see this as determining the situation in the South China Sea. ASEAN values its relationship in America and this is an opportunity for us to meet. Naturally we will talk about security issues like the South China Sea. But at the same time, we talk to the Chinese as well and we have meetings with (them)."

Happy to meet President Obama again today. His regular meetings with ASEAN reflect his and America’s commitment to our...
Posted by Lee Hsien Loong on Monday, February 15, 2016

PM urges US to build on its work in Asia
PM Lee hopes Obama's successor will carry on the good work and ensure region is stable
By Jeremy Au Yong, US Bureau Chief In Sunnylands, California, The Straits Times, 17 Feb 2016

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has urged the United States to stay the course in Asia, saying he hopes whoever succeeds President Barack Obama in the White House next year will build on the good work done over the past eight years.

"What's most important is that the direction be sustained and enhanced, and there is predictability and conviction by all players that this is the direction which America has committed to taking," PM Lee said at a working dinner on the first day of the US-ASEAN summit in Sunnylands, California.

He added: "All of us are following the processes of the US November elections with great interest as well as concern, and we hope that the new president... will build on the good work that has been done, sustain its direction and ensure that Asia is a stable and secure region."

His remarks reflect the growing concern among some Asia watchers that Mr Obama's rebalance to Asia might be abandoned once he leaves office next year.

Asia policy has not featured prominently on the US presidential campaign trail thus far, apart from nearly all the candidates voicing their opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal, considered the lynchpin of the rebalance to Asia.

This week's US-ASEAN summit - the first time that the US has hosted ASEAN heads of government - has thus been hailed as an important signal from Mr Obama to his successor.

Mr Lee said ASEAN deeply appreciates the policy shift towards Asia that Mr Obama had made, and added that the US continues to have important roles to play in the region.

"The relationship with China is most important. At the same time, you have a key role to play in fostering stability in North-east Asia, especially given the issues in the Korean Peninsula, and particularly the nuclear issue. On other security issues, America plays an important role in the region too, such as terrorism, freedom of navigation and rule of international law," he added.

Mr Lee highlighted three trends that would influence the strategic landscape in Asia: ASEAN's progress, as well as the rise of China and India.

On territorial disputes in the South China Sea, he agreed with the US position that the matter should be dealt with peacefully and on the basis of international law, but added that this must be viewed in the context of a "cooperative relationship and not in a hostile way".

He acknowledged ASEAN was "not a perfect union", but said he was certain countries in the region would become closer and more effective over time. He said the grouping needs to press on with economic integration and deepen regional ties.

The first day of the summit opened on Monday with Mr Obama greeting ASEAN leaders at the Sunnylands estate and underscoring the importance of ASEAN, which the US considers to be "central to the region's peace and prosperity".

"This (summit) reflects my personal commitment, and the national commitment of the United States, to a strong and enduring partnership with your 10 nations," he said during his opening remarks.

Mr Obama said he chose to hold the summit in a resort town so that the leaders can meet in more informal surroundings. While everyone turned up in a suit, there were no ties in sight at the summit.

"You and the people of ASEAN have always shown me extraordinary hospitality, and I hope we can reciprocate with the warmth today and tomorrow - which is why I did not hold this summit in Washington. It is cold there. It's snowing. So, welcome to beautiful, warm Sunnylands," he told the leaders.

A warm welcome for ASEAN leaders - literally
The Straits Times, 17 Feb 2016

SUNNYLANDS (California) • They arrived by air and by land, none more impressive than the Sultan of Brunei, who piloted his jumbo aeroplane - which is bigger than the US President's Air Force One - to the airport at Palm Springs.

Three came by motorcade from Los Angeles, while the rest of the ASEAN leaders flew in for the summit hosted by US President Barack Obama in the secluded, sprawling Sunnylands retreat in California.

The palm-fringed grounds welcomed the participants with temperatures that must have reminded them of home - around 32 deg C but without the humidity.

Sunnylands is in the middle of a desert, and has a fitting name.

Mr Obama personally greeted ASEAN secretary-general Le Luong Minh and the 10 leaders from the ASEAN nations - Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Laos and Brunei.

According to an official from the US State Department, the order was based on how long the leaders have been in office. Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, who has ruled for nearly five decades, was the last to be greeted by Mr Obama.

In keeping with the more laidback atmosphere at Sunnylands, none of the leaders wore a tie.

Watch as President Obama welcomes the leaders of all 10 ASEAN member states to Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, California for the U.S.-ASEAN Leaders Summit. #USASEAN2016
Posted by U.S. Department of State on Monday, February 15, 2016

President Obama, who spent part of his childhood in Indonesia, greeted Indonesian President Joko Widodo with a few words in Bahasa Indonesia.

He also warmly welcomed Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and Philippine President Benigno Aquino.

All the countries were represented by their leaders except Myanmar, which sent Vice-President Nyan Tun.

Myanmar's outgoing President Thein Sein scrapped his planned trip in order to oversee the power hand-off to the new government, according to a presidential spokesman.

The summit, held at the same location where Mr Obama once hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping, was aimed at demonstrating Washington's role as a counterweight to Beijing and as an eager trading partner with ASEAN members.

At Sunnyland's Great Room, the leaders sat around a U-shaped table, with Mr Obama at its head. Behind him were US Secretary of State John Kerry and National Security Adviser Susan Rice.

Outside the venue, a few hundred protesters gathered. There was a group holding up signs opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade deal. The TPP, which includes the US, Singapore and three other ASEAN countries, has triggered much debate in the US.

Many Americans argue that free trade deals like the TPP either send jobs overseas or lower wages.

There was also a large group that gathered to oppose the governments of Cambodia and Laos.

No comments:

Post a Comment