U.S.-Japan-Southeast Asia Fellowship Year 2 Fellow: Dr. Pon Souvannaseng

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Residency:  March 2020

BiographyPon Souvannaseng

Dr. Pon Souvannaseng is a political economist and holds a PhD from the London School of Economics & Political Science. She currently serves as Post-Doctoral Research Associate at the University of Manchester’s Centre for Crisis Studies & Mitigation. Her research examines the political economy of energy and infrastructure financing in the developing world. She is particularly interested in Asian regional private and public investment in the energy and infrastructure sector, as well as issues of financial and banking regulation in the East and Southeast Asian region. Her expertise is in issues of environmental governance and development finance with extensive experience in Southeast Asia and Africa. She was a lead investigator in the ‘Mapping Infrastructure Finance’ program of a UKRI-funded research consortia connecting biophysical and social science research on water-energy issues. She has been a Fulbright Research Scholar and was named a 2020 Mansfield-Luce Asia Policy Scholar and 2019 APSA Asia Fellow. She has previously served as a researcher at the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, ASEAN Labour Secretariat and as a Fellow in Political Economy & International Development at University College London.


Research Topic: ‘On Equal Footing’ – Examining the Role of Japan & the US in Harmonizing ASEAN Financial Regulatory Space Through the Adoption of Best Practice Social & Environmental Safeguards in the Banking & Export Finance Sector

Banking and export finance competition in Southeast Asia have prevented the adoption of crucial social and environmental safeguards and better corporate social responsibility standards by financial actors in project finance lending, particularly in the energy and infrastructure sectors. Financial sector actors fear adopting environmental or social safeguards would post constraints that place them at a competitive disadvantage vis-à-vis regional rivals. The lack of an equal financial regulatory space puts environmental and social safety at risk in project lending and fosters unequal competition amongst OECD and non-OECD actors in the ASEAN + 3 community. This project seeks to better understand how Japan and the US can develop and implement strategies for building collectively binding harmonization of financial sector regulatory space in Southeast Asia through the integration of social and environmental risk frameworks.