|ASEAN has been one of the most successful regional organisations. (Photo: Thai PBS World)
Could you please highlight some of ASEAN’s major accomplishments in building an ASEAN Community based on Political-Security, Economic and Social-Cultural Pillars?
First of all, it can be rightly stated that ASEAN has been one of the most successful regional organisations, with important achievements recorded during its 55 years of development. Indeed, throughout ASEAN’s history, ASEAN has shown that by working together, ASEAN can bring about peace, security and stability, economic prosperity, social development and progress in the region.
|Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN Tran Duc Binh. (Photo: PP)
Through closer regional economic integration and an expanding network of trade and investment arrangements with external partners, ASEAN has been able to build a favourable economic and business environment. ASEAN has become the world’s fifth largest economy and third most attractive destination for foreign direct investment. ASEAN’s trade in 2021 increased by 20.2 per cent to USD 3.21 trillion. Foreign direct investment flows into ASEAN rose by 28.3 percent, amounting to USD 176.2 billion. Currently, while advancing the implementation of the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework (ACRF), ASEAN and partner countries are actively forging ahead with the implementation of the RCEP Agreement, which is expected to bring about even greater benefits to support economic growth, trade and investment in the ASEAN region.
Besides economic growth and social development, ASEAN’s most important contribution is the preservation of peace, security and stability in the region. It is in fact this peace, security and stability that has allowed ASEAN member states the valuable space and opportunity to invest resources in economic development, lifting the quality of life of more than 660 million people in the region. At the same time, ASEAN’s role has always been highly valued by partners as more and more countries from other parts of the world seek to establish formal partnerships and beneficial cooperation with ASEAN. As recently as in 2021, the United Kingdom became ASEAN’s 11th full Dialogue Partner, while Italy and France were accorded Development Partners status in 2020. In recent years, with the growing strategic competition and rivalry amongst major powers, ASEAN’s centrality has been maintained through the effective operation of ASEAN-led mechanisms such as the EAS, ADMM Plus, ARF, ASEAN+3, etc., to foster constructive dialogue and cooperation and ensure the ASEAN region remains open, inclusive, dynamic and resilient.
Over the past 2 years, ASEAN has continued to demonstrate its role and value as an indispensable regional organisation and as a caring and inclusive community, through common efforts and initiatives to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as the establishment of the ASEAN COVID-19 Response Fund, ASEAN Regional Reserve of Medical Supplies for Public Health Emergencies (RRMS), ASEAN Regional Centre for Public Health Emergencies and Emerging Diseases (ACPHEED)…
How do you assess Vietnam’s efforts and contributions to ASEAN’s development and community building process as well as in addressing emerging challenges?
Since joining ASEAN in 1995, Vietnam has always been an active member state which has made significant and effective contributions to ASEAN’s development, integration and community building process. When Viet Nam served as Chair of ASEAN in 1998, 2000-2001, 2010 and 2020, Vietnam always demonstrated strong political resolve, decisive and effective leadership in steering the region toward realising important objectives and priorities. At the same time, Vietnam has always been a member state which registers a high level of commitment.
Vietnam is an important factor in promoting and expanding ASEAN’s trade and economic cooperation with countries outside the region. Vietnam also contributes a lot to the implementation of plans for regional connectivity and narrowing the development gap to complement efforts to build a sustainable and resilient ASEAN community.
Beyond economic cooperation, Vietnam also gives priority to promoting ASEAN’s international profile and strengthening ASEAN role in the international arena. When Vietnam served as a non-permanent member of the UNSC in 2020-2021, it helped enhance coordination and cooperation between the UN and ASEAN, and promoted the role and participation of women in security and peace making.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, right from the beginning of 2020 as ASEAN Chair, Vietnam led ASEAN’s collective efforts and coordination in addressing the pandemic, Under the theme “a Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN”, many important initiatives were adopted to help ASEAN effectively respond to the impact of COVID-19 such as establishment of the ASEAN COVID-19 Response Fund, ASEAN Regional Reserve of Medical Supplies for Public Health Emergencies (RRMS), ASEAN Regional Centre for Public Health Emergencies and Emerging Diseases (ACPHEED), ASEAN Travel Corridor Agreement Framework, ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework and the Ha Noi Plan of Action on Strengthening ASEAN Economic Cooperation and Supply Chain Connectivity. All those initiatives not only helped ASEAN address the immediate impacts of the pandemic but have also enabled ASEAN to emerge stronger, build back better and remain more resilient in many years to come.
In sum, Vietnam’s economic success, political stability, able leadership, dynamic and energetic population, always serve as valuable assets to the ASEAN Community.
|ASEAN’s success depends a lot on the ability to forge a strong sense of common regional identity, especially among the younger generation of the region. (Source: asean.org)
Could you please share with us the challenges that ASEAN is facing today and what must be done to overcome those challenges?
Although economies in the region have registered encouraging signs of recovery, ASEAN must remain vigilant, continue with economic integration priorities and plans. It must at the same time address downside risks to recovery such as disruptions of supply chain connectivity of key commodities, rising transport costs, economic slowdown in major economies, as well as rising inflationary pressures, due to recent global developments.
In addition, in the context of increasing strategic competition and rivalry, maintaining and exercising ASEAN’s central role requires innovation, building upon ASEAN’s past experiences and important principles of dialogue, multilateralism, open and inclusive regionalism, and most importantly international law.
Another major challenge to ASEAN perhaps is unity in purpose, political will and commitment, as well as collective action, in implementation of the cooperation agenda. Being able to do so will be the key to ASEAN’s continued success as an effective regional organisation, a closely integrated community, capable of addressing current and emerging threats posed by a fluid external strategic environment.
History has shown that ASEAN’s success depends a lot on the ability to forge a strong sense of common regional identity, especially among the younger generation of the region. Therefore, ASEAN must make extra efforts in promoting dialogue and engagement with all stakeholders, such as ordinary people and businesses, in order to successfully build an ASEAN Community that can bring real and tangible benefits to the people of the region.