Academic journal article Southeast Asian Affairs

Conclusion

Academic journal article Southeast Asian Affairs

Conclusion

Article excerpt

1997 proved to be a challenging mix of success and difficulty for Southeast Asia. The bonds of ASEAN regionalism appeared firmer at year's end, in part from coping with some of these difficulties. The ARF got favourable reviews, bolstering the role of ASEAN in regional affairs. And the members demonstrated substantial independence from outside pressure, taking decisions in the face of intense opposition. Southeast Asia is playing a more significant strategic role in the Asia-Pacific as a bloc, exactly what the leaders desire.

But that political independence was countered by economic weakness. At the same time as more assertive diplomacy appears possible, dependence on the international economic system has also become more notable, at least in the short term. Aside from IMF strictures for some countries, the economic slump in Japan has moderated trade demand and investment flows from there, leaving the United States as the primary market and source of funds. Fortunately, the U.S. role as investor has surged, but with tensions across the Pacific increased whether further dependence on the American market is desirable or not is a close question. Both sides will have to work carefully to avoid a downward spiral. …

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