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15 Asia-Pacific Countries Sign Major Trade Pact

15 Asia-Pacific Countries Sign Major Trade Pact

After years of tricky negotiations 15 countries including China signed a major trade deal, creating a regional bloc that covers around a third of global economic output and extends Beijing’s influence. This is posing an early challenge to President-elect Joe Biden as he is formulating his administration’s trade policies.

The trade deal is called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and covers a third of the global economic output.  The bloc includes many of the largest economies in the Asia-Pacific region. Apart from China, it includes Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and 10 Southeast Asian nations.

The pact will result in a more unified trading system which will minimize trading costs in the area. Therefore, it is expected to boost the global economy and help the countries better fight the economic hit from the pandemic.

The United States are not part of the deal even though they have the world’s largest economy. They were part of another deal called the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) which didn’t include Beijing and was aimed in part at countering China’s growing clout. The United States pulled out of this multilateral trade pact under the Trump administration, increasing the pressure on Biden to deepen U.S. trade engagement in the Asia-Pacific region. He commented that he wants to rally allies in order to create a more forceful policy to confront China before signing the deal.

After several years of growing trade tensions, particularly between the U.S. and China which raised questions about the future of globalisation, a ceremony was held online where the 15 Nations representatives signed the pact.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said that the signing showed that multilateralism and free trade “still represent the right direction of the world economy and mankind.”

Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, left, and Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh on Sunday at a virtual signing ceremony in Hanoi.

PHOTO: LUONG THAI LINH/EPA/SHUTTERSTOCK

The negotiation of the deal took 8 years and the challenge was mainly to balance the interests of countries at varying stages of development. India for example withdrew from the deal last year because they were concerned that the deal would lead to a flood of imports but even without India the population of the countries which are part of the deal equals roughly a third of humanity.

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ASEAN launches Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Indicators

ASEAN launches Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Indicators

HA NOI, 23 October 2020 – The General Statistics Office (GSO) Viet Nam, in collaboration with ASEANstats and supported by the ARISE Plus Project, convened in a virtual conference to launch the ASEAN SDG Indicators Baseline Report 2020 and the ASEAN Online Database for SDG Indicators. 

 
As the role of ASEAN Statistical Chairman in 2020, Vietnam has proposed the initiative “Establishing the statistical information system on sustainable development of ASEAN”. This initiative has received the consensus and actively participated in the implementation of all ASEAN member countries. 

The inaugural ASEAN report on SDG indicators aims to establish the baseline information of the SDGs being tracked and measured in the region to aid the monitoring of progress in achieving the global agenda as well as supporting relevant policy making at the national and regional levels. This report presents the data for ASEAN and the AMS as gathered and compiled by the NSSs and the NSOs in the region from 2016 – 2018. 

Director General of GSO Vietnam Dr. Nguyen Thi Huong opened the event, along with Ambassador of the European Union to ASEAN Igor Driesmans and Director of the ASEAN Integration Monitoring Directorate of the ASEAN Secretariat Julia Tijaja who all gave their opening remarks. 

Dr. Julia Tijaja speaking out of the ASEAN Community’s vision to 2025 has complemented the UN Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development with efforts to improve the living standards of people in the ASEAN community. This is reflected in the Blueprint 2025 of the ASEAN Economic Community and Socio-Cultural Community, which is committed to achieving sustainable socio-economic development of ASEAN. Mr. Igor Driesmans has shown a great appreciation for the Early Report, emphasizing that the SDG indicators play an important role in making policies for sustainable development of member countries. This is also an important tool to ensure the transparency of statistical indicators. 

The SDGs are based on 6 themes including: dignity, people, planet, partnership, justice and prosperity. The SDGs are more comprehensive than the MDGs and include 17 goals, defined by 169 specific goals and 232 indicators. These goals go beyond social development, including the goals for climate change, economic inequality, innovation, sustainable consumption, peace, equity… These goals are reciprocally connecting and being successful in one goal will often solve problems in another area. 

ACSS conveyed its appreciation to the ASEAN Regional Integration Support by the European Union (ARISE) Plus Project for their support in improving statistical capacity in AMS and the ASEAN Secretariat. 

 
The ASEAN SDG Indicators Baseline Report 2020 is available at https://www.aseanstats.org/publication/asean-sdg-report-2020/ 
The Online Database for ASEAN SDG Indicators is accessible at https://data.aseanstats.org/sdg 

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Asean One Entity – Smart, Digital and Sustainable

Asean One Entity – Smart, Digital and Sustainable Smart Nation Singapore

Improving the life of citizens through connectivity

The countries within the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) are some of the most dynamic regions in the world. Due to the rapid economic growth in this area, acting in a smart way is a key factor for long-term success. Being the fastest growing internet market in the world, ASEAN’s digital economy is particularly influential. As by-product of their strong economic growth, the region today faces many challenges related to sustainability, such as reduced air and water quality as well as waste management issues. Therefore, sustainable business practices are now progressively being prioritized.

Singapore is a prime example of the economic relevance and strength of this region. In 1965 it gained its independence and started to open their policies as well as their borders and adopted an outward looking economic strategy. This eventually resulted in an increase of imports and exports and therefore, the city-state became an internationally competitive player despite its size.

Smart Singapore

Singapore is a pioneering city which is continuously deploying new technologies in order to improve the quality of life for its citizens. The state’s approach is focusing on a broad scale when it comes to technological innovations, while focusing on its force as a nation.

The Smart Nation initiative was launched by the Government in 2014. The initiative included the purchase of services from technology start-ups, to make that data available on government portals. The goal includes the extension of public transport networks and ensures a secure but open data marketplace. This data can be used for urban and operational planning and maintenance with the introduction of cashless payment options on a large scale.

Singapore’s response to the pandemic

The response to the global pandemic of Singapore is based on the Smart Nation Initiative, which provides an ideal foundation for the measures. On this basis the government was able to develop further targeted concepts to control the spread of the Virus. Furthermore, the State was able to adapt, implement and monitor the changes quick and with almost no complications. This is also felt by it’s citizens like Chrys Francisco Laguitao, Senior UX Designer at Google Singapore, who observed an easy transition at her company to working remotely. “The fast and accessible internet as well as the available digital tools have made this conversion possible with almost no technical difficulties.”

An example of an innovation that is used in Singapore’s biggest public parks are robot dogs. These robot dogs have several distinctive abilities like a sound system to broadcast safety messages to visitors as well as tracking the number of visitors to avoid crowding.

Robot dogs are obviously just one creative solution amongst many in order to keep the virus in check. The most widespread technology amongst the citizens are apps like SafeEntry or TraceTogether, which store data about their users in order to facilitate the tracking process in case of an outbreak. The apps can record or exchange different information’s, from the location, to the duration of the interaction between the users.

The statistics show that the measures are successful. The numbers remained low throughout the pandemic and Singapore is therefore one of the safest cities to live in during the age of this dangerous virus.

The discussion about data privacy

Even though the high level of connectivity and the open approach to managing their data has a lot of advantages, especially during the current situation, there are critics coming forward. Some security experts are concerned that the individual privacy is being sacrificed in the process. The question of how open the information should be handled is answered differently by most countries and individuals, which can complicate international collaboration. Therefore, Singapore is concerned about the upcoming EU data protection regime that will require a change in data processing for a successful data transfer. Nevertheless, the different approach has many advantages and as long as the thin line from connectivity to observation is not crossed, it seems to be a reasonable course to follow for this economic giant.

After all, there are a lot of goals that all ASEAN countries are working towards and the improvements can be felt in every area. Singapore as a nation is a prime example for a rapidly growing economy. Nevertheless, the nation has smoothly mastered numerous challenges, such as the pandemic, with their smart use of technology. With their stream of innovations, this nation evidently can’t be diminished by its size.

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Flexibility during times of COVID-19

How the FHNW and exploreASEAN manage the effects of the pandemic

Read more about that balance of protecting and running our project today while retooling it for tomorrow to thrive after the pandemic.
We had the great honour to speak with local newspaper “General Anzeiger” about our project and the challenge of managing the effects of the pandemic (COVID-19).
A great article on the lessons that we have learned and that will hopefully benefit future project teams!
We hope you enjoy reading it.

Your exploreASEAN Team

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Food security in densely populated cities

How can you provide food security for one of the world’s most densely populated cities when you have no land for agriculture?

With a population of five million people on a landmass of only 715 square kilometres, Singapore is one of the most densely populated cities in the world. Due to its densely populated area, Singapore is highly dependent on the food imports from its neighbouring countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia.

This is not an issue that solely concerns the island of Singapore. By 2030 global food production will have to double, to feed all people on earth properly. Due to the usage of antibiotics, oil, soy, and so on, today, food production has a significantly negative impact on our environment and is accelerating climate change. Consequently, we must look for alternative means of production.

In recent years Singapore has started to implement the concept of Vertical Farming. Vertical farming, also called Skyscraper Farming, moves away from planting crops on large pieces of land but utilises high-rise buildings, such as old factory buildings or warehouses, to produce food. Crops are stacked on top of each other in a climate-controlled indoor facility. This food revolution manages to deliver considerable yields with considerably less land, water, and energy resources.

Most vertical farms use enclosed structures, similar to greenhouses, which massively save space. Hydroponic methodsuse mineralised water as a growing medium instead of soil which reduces the water requirements by up to 70%. The use of aeroponics further reduces weight and water requirements. Vertical farming typically uses a mix of natural light and artificial light. Artificial lighting is often LED-based and may be driven by a renewable power source such as solar power or wind turbines. Pesticides or herbicides are not necessary because the crops do not need any soil. Vertical farming, therefore, eliminates numerous manual labour tasks. Moreover, the use of robots and AI enables a vertical farm to provide consistent, high-quality, and prodigious output.

Not only does vertical farming help to reduce water, land and energy resources usage, it also minimizes carbon dioxide emissions by preceding the transportation of foreign products. As the organic food and beverage market are expected to grow immensely soon, Vertical Farming is likely to turn into a highly promising market. Thanks to this food revolution, Singapore is now able to enjoy environmental-friendly and local products.

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The success of artificial rain generation

The success of artificial rain generation has attracted worldwide attention and led to requests for knowledge exchange from several Asian countries

Water shortage is one of the most critical global problems of today. The United Nations estimates that more than 40 percent of the world’s population lives with or in conditions of water shortage. In Thailand, agriculture covers almost 70 percent of total land use, and a high-water supply is required to sustain it. As a consequence, there are sporadic dry periods throughout the country. In combination with decades of massive deforestation, the lack of rainfall increases the droughts, especially during the dry season. Over 82% of Thailand’s agricultural land is dependent on rainfall; thus Thai farmers face difficulties growing crops due to the lack of water.
 
In 1955, when then beloved Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej realized that many regions were struggling with the problem of drought, he initiated the Royal Regeneration Project of Thailand. The “Rain Generation Project” is a proposed solution to counter the lack of rainfall by using artificial rain generation or cloud seeding. According to the Desert Research Institute, Cloud seeding is a type of weather modification that aims to change the amount or type of precipitation that falls from clouds, by dispersing substances into the air that serve as cloud condensation or ice nuclei, which alter the microphysical processes within the cloud.
 
The Royal Rainfall Generation Project was first launched in Khao Yai National Park on 20 July 1969 at the King’s behest. Dry ice flakes were scattered over clouds, and there were reports of some rainfall. Following the launch, in 1971 the government set up the research and development project for artificial rain generation within the Thai Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives.
 
Since the introduction of the technology, the invention has gone through a series of changes which have enabled the transfer of technological expertise. It also stimulated cooperation between different regional and international actors with the common goal of improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the artificial rainmaking process. To “make it rain”, the following steps are applied: “agitation” to activate cloud formation by using weather modification techniques; “fattening” to activate the accumulation of cloud droplets and finally “attacking” to trigger rain from the cloud.
 
The Royal Rainfall Generation Project has attracted worldwide attention and let to requests for knowledge exchange from several Asian countries. Interest was also shown from the Middle East, where farmers suffer from dry climates and extremely long dry seasons. Jordan, which has an annual rainfall of 20 to 200 millimetres, is the only country thus far to have considered the operation due to its geographic and climatic conditions. The procedure is expected to alleviate the side effects of the climate change that the country is suffering from, which is causing precipitation to drop from 15 to 60 percent per year.