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ASEAN, Gulf states to deepen economic, energy ties as leaders meet at inaugural summit in Riyadh

SINGAPORE: Countries in Southeast Asia and the Gulf region are expected to strengthen economic and energy cooperation in a meeting between leaders next week, as they seek to deepen ties.

The inaugural summit between leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) on Oct 20 comes amid shared concerns of global superpower rivalry, according to experts.

The GCC, which comprises Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman, first established ties with ASEAN in 1990, and next week’s summit in Riyadh is expected to give that relationship a boost.

In recent years, ASEAN has been upgrading its ties with various dialogue partners, such as the US, China, India, Japan and Australia, to Comprehensive Strategic Partnerships (CSP).

CSPs are the bloc’s highest level of engagement with its partners, and they reflect the breadth and depth of those ties.

LOOKING TO THE MIDDLE EAST

ASEAN is now looking at greater cooperation with the Middle East.

Relations between the two regions have gained pace, with all six members of the GCC signing ASEAN’s peace pact, the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, in recent years. Kuwait most recently entered the treaty in September this year. 

The foreign ministers of both blocs already meet every year on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

“They will expand linkages into trade, investment (and) cooperation in the energy space. We’re actually talking about a time of transitioning into clean energy because of climate change. These are concerns that both sides have,” she said.

“There’s interest in maybe growing the halal food industry (and) developing the standards in this area.”

DRIVEN BY GEOPOLITICS

Dr Samaan said the GCC’s move to boost ties with its Southeast Asian counterparts is prompted by the current state of geopolitics.

ASEAN’s traditional stand in global geopolitics has been to not become a proxy for any larger power.

As the GCC expands its outward-looking policies, strengthening its cooperation with its Southeast Asian counterparts will bring about more benefits to both sides.

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