Malaysia-Singapore spat won’t affect Asean, says research institute

Asean leaders at their summit in Singapore last November. (Bernama pic)

SINGAPORE: The bilateral disputes between Malaysia and Singapore will not slow down the overall integration of the grouping, the CIMB Asean Research Institute (CARI) said.

This is because the overall relations between the two nations are not affected by the differences, Mohd Munir Abdul Majid, chairman of the institute, said.

“When you are negotiating in good faith with mutual respect, you will discover mutual interest,” he told Bernama at the end of the Asean Roundtable Series here today.

CARI and the Asean Business Club, in partnership with the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), hosted the Asean Roundtable Series themed “Future of Asean Trade: Tackling Non-Tariff Barriers in the New Trade Order”.

“There are issues that need to be resolved but it does not mean your entire relationship is affected,” Munir, who is also the chairman of the Asean Business Advisory Council, said.

He welcomed Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s assurance during the Invest Malaysia 2019 conference last month that Singapore would always remain Malaysia’s key trading partner despite some differences in views.

Malaysia and Singapore are resolving maritime and airspace-related issues.

Mahathir and his Singapore counterpart Lee Hsien Loong will be meeting in Putrajaya next week for the 9th Leaders’ Retreat.

During the Asean Roundtable Series, Munir cautioned against over-reliance on prospects, saying “Asean must understand that future prospects are not current reality”.

“Projected numbers, such as the size of the combined economy, the young and huge market, and the boost in — and use of — new technologies, will start to run thin if the Asean economy is not really one, if it continues to have cross-border impediments of all sorts, of which non-tariff barriers (NTBs) and non-tariff measures (NTMs) are the most pervasive,” he said.

According to data presented by EU-Asean Business Council executive director Chris Humphrey, the number of NTMs in Asean is close to 6,000.

The event was also attended by Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Secretariat executive director Rebecca Fatima Sta Maria and RSIS executive deputy chairman Ong Keng Yong.