Asian Insider Nov 4: Asean rebuke for US; human-wildlife conflicts, China woos Taiwanese

Asian Insider brings you insights into a fast-changing region from our network of correspondents.


In today's bulletin: Top Asean leaders skip Asean-US summit in a rebuke of the United States for sending a low-level delegation; the dramatic capture of a tiger in southern India illustrates the growing human-wildlife conflict as habitats of wild animals shrink; China woos Taiwanese with incentives for working and studying in the mainland.

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Asean summit: Top Asean leaders skip meeting with US

In an apparent rebuke of the United States, top Asean leaders, including Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, gave Monday's Asean-US summit a miss, with most of them sending their foreign ministers instead. Only three heads of government, from Thailand, Vietnam and Laos, attended the meeting held on the sidelines of the Asean summit.

This was as Washington sent a relatively low-level delegation to the Asean confab, with President Donald Trump represented by his National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien while US rival China as well as India, Japan and Russia were represented by their prime ministers. As if to make amends, Mr Trump through Mr O'Brien invited Asean leaders to the US for a "special summit" next year.

Asean summit: US trade in Indo-Pacific to grow

US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said on Monday that the United States' trade in the Indo-Pacific region will continue to grow despite its trade war with China. Speaking at a business forum on the sidelines of the Asean summit, he reminded his audience that the US was the largest source of foreign direct investment in the region with US$886 billion invested compared with China's US$504 billion, of which US$381 billion went to Hong Kong.

Seeking to reassure Asean despite the no-show of US President Donald Trump at the summit, Mr Ross said the Trump administration is "extremely engaged and fully committed to the region".

Tiger's capture and growing human-wildlife conflicts

The dramatic capture of a tiger last month after it killed a man in a village in the southern Indian state of Karnataka highlighted the shrinking habitats of tigers and the growing conflict between humans and wildlife. Bandipur forest, where the tiger was captured, has 140 to 160 tigers in its 872sq km and is surrounded by 172 villages, according to conservationists.

India's forests are also becoming scattered and this poses a problem to wildlife such as elephants which are used to moving from forest to forest and are now forced to cross human settlements. Conservationists urged education and pro-active measures to avoid human-wildlife conflict, reported India Correspondent Rohini Mohan.

China woos Taiwanese

China has unveiled a slew of incentives to Taiwanese companies and individuals to do business, work or study on the mainland. These 26 new measures straddle fields including telecommunications, education and sports. They include ensuring a level-playing field for Taiwanese companies and individuals competing against their Chinese counterparts in areas such as 5G, air transport and theme parks.

These came ahead of presidential polls in self-ruled Taiwan in January that could see the re-election of President Tsai Ing-wen of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party. Chinese President Xi Jinping earlier this year urged Taiwanese to work towards the goal of unification.

Palm oil industry watchdog 'dupes consumers'

A report by an environmental group has accused a global palm oil industry watchdog of duping consumers about the sustainability of the palm oil used to make products from cosmetics and foodstuffs to biofuels. The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) effectively gave false environmental credibility to its products, the Britain-based Environmental Investigation Agency alleged in a report on Sunday (Nov 3).

However, RSPO, which has 4,000 members in 93 countries, countered that it was guided by credible research organisations conducting independent research on the impacts of its certification process, reports Malaysia correspondent Hazlin Hassan. The Malaysia-based RSPO develops and implements global standards for certified sustainable palm oil.

In other news

China criticised: US National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien on Monday slammed China's regional policy, saying the Asian power "used intimidation" to stop Asean countries from exploiting off-shore resources in the South China Sea.

US-North Korea talks in November?: North Korea and the United States could hold another round of working-level talks in mid-November to expedite progress before a year-end deadline, South Korean lawmaker Lee Eun-jae said on Monday.

Moon, Abe back dialogue: South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at their meeting on Monday on the sidelines of the Asean summit agreed that a deepening political and trade row should be resolved through dialogue, Mr Moon's spokesman has said in a statement.

New Delhi battles smog: Some cars were taken off the road, schools were closed and construction was halted on Monday as India's capital New Delhi battled "eye-burning smog", the worst in three years.

That's it for today, thanks for reading.

- Sui Noi