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China Snaps Up ASEAN’s Green, Digital Investment Opportunities

China is making fresh investments in key business projects in ASEAN nations, leading the world’s economic powers that seek more involvement in the emerging region, Indonesian Deputy Foreign Minister Pahala Mansury told Nikkei Asia.

In early September, Indonesia, this year’s ASEAN chair, hosted a “flagship” event, the first ASEAN-Indo-Pacific Forum (AIPF), on the sidelines of the bloc’s summit meetings in Jakarta, aiming to mobilize public and private funding to foster more economic cooperation and development and reduce geopolitical tensions in the Indo-Pacific region.

During the forum, ASEAN pitched at least 93 projects worth $38.2 billion to the bloc’s partner countries. The group also announced 73 other potential projects worth $17.8 billion.

In a recent interview with Nikkei Asia, Mansury revealed that China, the U.S., the U.K., France and Australia “are contributing the most on these 93 projects,” adding that Beijing is expected to become the projects’ biggest investor overall.

Under the initiative, ASEAN is prioritizing four major sectors for the region’s development: green infrastructure, digital economy, sustainable financing and tourism. “We believe the themes will foster a push for growth, not only within the ASEAN region, but also within the Indo-Pacific,” Mansury said.

He did not detail which countries will invest in which projects, but said ASEAN aims for the projects to be realized by 2025. “We hope [the projects] can move from the [current stage of] partnerships into real investment that we believe within the next one or two years are going to be able to be realized as an investment,” he said.

China has already been a major economic power in Southeast Asia, with Chinese businesses investing in areas such as manufacturing and information technology.

Mansury noted that ASEAN seeks to diversify the source of investments beyond China, stressing, “We want [be invested by] all of the other countries.”

Among specific projects pitched by Indonesia during the September forum were a $1.8 billion aluminum smelter under state mining holding company Mind ID, a $4.3 billion port development on Bali by state port operator Pelindo, and a $4.3 billion green development project by state utility Perusahaan Listrik Negara in partnership with state-owned company Pupuk Indonesia.

Indonesia will pass the bloc’s rotating chairmanship to Laos next year. Mansury said, “We hope that Laos will continue the [AIPF] event.”

Source: Nikkei Asia