Southeast Asia is one of the world’s most biodiverse regions, and it is also highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Policymakers in the region must ensure that plans to preserve nature while promoting sustainable economic growth are part of the post-pandemic recovery.
AUKUS, the new trilateral security partnership between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States that launched last month, has had a mixed reception. Some regional policymakers publicly and privately welcome a stronger presence, commitment and set of capabilities that could balance China. Others are concerned about regional tension and an arms race, while many more appear unsure one way or the other.
In May, we examined the possibility of Southeast Asian countries working together to create a regional COVID-19 Vaccination Certification (CVC) system. We posited that CVCs present unprecedented collaboration challenges, especially that of coordination and trust. We suggested that the EU’s Digital COVID Certificate (formerly called Digital Green Certificate) approach provided an example of how regional blocs can address such challenges.
The Delta variant of COVID-19 has become dominant in Southeast Asia, calling into question the current combination of mobility restrictions at and within borders. The variant’s high transmissibility is eroding the health-protective effects of border closures relative to domestic mobility restrictions, while the economic cost of border closures continues to rise over time. A recalibration in Southeast Asia is overdue.
Two months after its introduction to the US House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Committee, the ‘Ensuring American Global Leadership and Engagement (EAGLE) Act’ has passed the mark for it to be introduced in the House for a vote at a later stage. Southeast Asia should sit up and take note.
President Joe Biden’s failure to personally contact any Southeast Asian leader since taking office in January 2021 has not won the United States any favours in the region. But while US engagement with Southeast Asia got off to a rocky start, the region remains receptive to US strategic influence.