CIMB: Asean 'centrality' trumps China's Belt and Road economic benefits

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KUALA LUMPUR (July 19): CIMB Asean Research Institute (CARI) said the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) needs to uphold its centrality against China's Belt and Road Initiative's (BRI) economic gains to ensure the Asean principle becomes the driving force in its external relations.

CARI chairman Tan Sri Dr Munir Majid said Asean must continue to ensure that its centrality was preserved with external dialogue partners.

"China has shown its goodwill in helping the region grow through various investments and support. ASEAN, however, must ensure that the economic benefits will not outweigh its centrality.

"The BRI should also be inclusive in involving local SMEs in the short and medium term to ensure long lasting bilateral relations," Munir said.

He said this today in a statement issued by CARI in conjunction with the roundtable entitled "China's Belt and Road Initiative in ASEAN: economic opportunities and ASEAN centrality".

CARI organised the roundtable here today in collaboration with Asean Business Club.

After the roundtable, Munir told reporters that Malaysia should not be "punch drunk" that the BRI would come with automatic benefits as any proposed investment should be thoroughly scrutinised to ensure that it would be in the country's best interest.

"We must not be overwhelmed by the sheer size of the BRI and think that good things are going to happen like that automatically.

"We must look at which part of it will work for Malaysia, and inevitably for Asean," he said.