Asia watch

New chapter for Trump-Xi, Brexit and more

Thai Raksa Chart Party's Chaturon Chaisang (in white T-shirt) greeting people during a campaign event for the country's upcoming general election.
Thai Raksa Chart Party's Chaturon Chaisang (in white T-shirt) greeting people during a campaign event for the country's upcoming general election.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

One dispute seems settled, but the other not so. Still, decisions on the future of US-China trade ties and Britain's relationship with the European Union are likely to become evident this month, with both having a bearing on Asia's future prosperity.

Besides these two key events, several others are set to define March.

US-China: New beginning?

A trade deal seems in the making. But it is not there yet.

For now, US President Donald Trump has decided that Washington will delay a hike in duties on US$200 billion (S$270 billion) worth of imports from China, from 10 per cent to 25 per cent, which was due to take effect tomorrow.

Indications are that an agreement has been reached between the two countries and an announcement could be made at a meeting between Mr Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida. Once the deal is through, it would mean some relief for trade watchers in Asia, as the two countries are the top destinations for much trade from the region.

Malay vote test for Pakatan

Voters in the Malay-majority seat of Semenyih in Selangor go to the polls tomorrow. The by-election results will give an indication of support for Malaysia's ruling Pakatan Harapan, amid increasing unhappiness among Malay voters over the handling of Malay issues and the performance of the government.

Singapore's save-water bid

Singapore's new campaign to conserve water will begin tomorrow, with over 2,000 participants from schools, firms and grassroots organisations coming together to mark Singapore World Water Day at the Marina Barrage. Roadshows and other events will be held nationwide to encourage water-saving habits among the young.

Kim Jong Un in Vietnam

North Korea and Vietnam will be looking to improve ties, with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un staying on in Vietnam till tomorrow after completing his summit with Mr Trump yesterday.

Pyongyang and Hanoi established diplomatic ties in 1950 and North Korea sent substantial economic and military aid, including fighter squadrons, to support Vietnam's revolution in 1966-1967, Viet Nam News reported.

South Korea to launch 5G services

South Korea is set to be the first country to offer fifth-generation (5G) mobile network services this month, although the exact launch date is not clear. 5G data transmission speeds are 40 to 50 times faster than 4G. KT, South Korea's leading wireless and fixed-line service provider, carried out a world first trial service of its 5G system during the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics last year, The Korea Herald reported.

China's legislature meets

China's National People's Congress will meet for 10 days from March 5. It runs concurrently with China's top political advisory body, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. The economy remains the big issue. Premier Li Keqiang will deliver overall growth targets and Finance Minister Liu Kun and officials from the People's Bank of China are also expected to address the delegates, Bloomberg reported.

Singapore's spending for the year

For Singapore watchers, the debate in Parliament on the Budget will continue till March 8. Key announcements expected include details of healthcare subsidies, measures to help workers reskill and companies transform, as well as steps to enhance the education system to better prepare students.

International Women's Day

Hundreds of meetings are being planned to mark International Women's Day on March 8. With Asia not faring very well on gender balance issues in the corporate world, there will be discussions on how this can be improved.

Najib in court

Malaysia's Court of Appeal is to hear four appeals on March 11 and 12 by former prime minister Najib Razak over charges related to a multibillion-dollar scandal at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad, The Star newspaper reported.

Najib has pleaded not guilty to charges of criminal breach of trust, money laundering and abuse of power.

Indonesia debates

The third and fourth rounds of presidential debates will take place on March 17 and 30.

The two leading candidates, President Joko Widodo and his opponent Prabowo Subianto, will share their views on education, healthcare, employment as well as social and cultural development in the third round.

Discussions in the fourth round will centre on ideology, governance, defence and security, and international relations. There will be a last round of debate ahead of the polls next month.

Thailand elections

Thailand goes to the polls on March 24. Four parties are battling for supremacy while "swing" parties are in a wait-and-watch game, said The Nation.

Brexit

Will Britain leave the European Union on March 29? It is not known and indications are that there could well be some delays.

Boao forum

The Asian "Davos" or the Boao Forum for Asia will be held from March 26 to 29 in Boao, a coastal town in southern China's island province of Hainan.

Jakarta gets its MRT

Indonesia is testing its new MRT system till March 11, before opening it to the public by the end of the month. The first phase of the 16km-long corridor connects the Hotel Indonesia roundabout in the city centre to Lebak Bulus in south Jakarta.

• Asia Watch is a monthly feature on happenings around the world of interest to the region, published in The Straits Times on the first weekday of the month.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2019, with the headline 'New chapter for Trump-Xi, Brexit and more'. Print Edition | Subscribe