The ASEAN East Asian Economic Ministers’ Meeting has warned of the threat posed by geopolitical conflicts, noting that they have the potential to hindering the benefits brought about by globalisation.

The statement was released the 11th summit, held on August 21 in the Indonesian port city of Semarang.

The meeting, chaired by Indonesian trade minister Zulkifli Hasan, welcomed Filipus Nino Pereira, Timor-Leste’s Minister of Commerce and Industry, to the meeting as an observer.

“We are concerned that geopolitical tensions can potentially disrupt international trade and supply chain links, impeding the efficiency gains derived from globalisation,” said a joint statement.

“The meeting acknowledged that these tensions could lead to economic fragmentation and increased policy uncertainty, ultimately diminishing market confidence, reducing investment, and adversely affecting long-term growth prospects in the region,” it added.

The statement affirmed the group’s commitment to working together to support ASEAN as the “epicentrum of growth” in the region.

It highlighted the importance of mitigating the economic impacts of geopolitical tensions, and other global shocks to the region’s bilateral trade and economic relations, particularly on issues related to food and energy security.

The statement also reaffirmed their commitment to a rules-based, non-discriminatory, open, fair, inclusive, equitable, and transparent multilateral trading system with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) at its core, and expressed their support for necessary reforms of the WTO.

It offered several examples of these, noting that WTO members at its 12th ministerial conference acknowledged challenges and concerns related to its dispute settlement system, and committed to conducting discussions towards establishing a functioning dispute settlement system that is accessible to all WTO members by 2024.

The participants also commended the continuous support that the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) contributes to economic integration in the region.

The statement singled out the ERIA’s paper on “driving a circular economy transition through digitalisation: a strategy for collective actions in East Asia summit countries” for praise, noting that it highlights the importance of digitalisation as a driver of a more circular economy.

It also reiterated the members’ support for the admission of Timor-Leste as an ASEAN member state, and offered assistance to its government as it prepared for entry into the bloc.

The meeting noted the implementation of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP), which provides a guide for ASEAN’s engagement in the wider Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions.

During the meeting, ASEAN secretary-general Kao Kim Hourn underscored the critical importance of addressing the climate crisis, noting that it was crucial to speeding up the region’s economic recovery, building a more sustainable future and creating employment, as well as increasing resilience against environmental impacts.