ASEAN leaders at the 7th ASEAN-UN Summit in Malaysia in November 2015 (Photo: VNA)

Hanoi (VNA)
- The Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI), which has the twin objective of narrowing the development divide and to enhance ASEAN’s competitiveness in the region, has become increasingly important with the establishment of ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by the end of this year, the Malaysian Ambassador to Vietnam has said.

In an interview granted to the Vietnam News Agency recently, Ambassador Dato' Azmil Mohd Zabidi noted that complementing the work on the AEC is the implementation of sub-regional integration initiatives. These are the Greater Mekong sub-Regional cooperation (GMS), BIMP-EAGA and IMT-GT.

He went on to say that Malaysia’s participation in IAI, BIMP-EAGA and IMT-GT together with other ASEAN Member States has led to accelerating growth in these sub-regions through infrastructure development, trade and investment facilitation and other economic activities are also contributing to ASEAN’s overall competitiveness.

According to the Ambassador, Malaysia’s focus on sustainable development is as prescribed under the ASEAN Charter which covers all three pillars of the ASEAN Community building: Political and Security Community, Economic Community and Socio-Cultural Community. This is also in line with United Nations sustainable development goals i.e. no poverty, zero hunger, good health and well-being, quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy and other priorities as outlined in the Transforming Our World – 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Regarding Malaysia-Vietnam relations, Ambassador Dato' Azmil Mohd Zabidi said the ties can be described as broad-based and substantive, with both countries presently enjoying vibrant cooperative relations in a wide range of sectors, namely, trade and investment; education; security; defence; and people-to-people ties.

He underlined that the relations are underscored by rapidly expanding trade and economic cooperation, investments from Malaysia, as well as frequent exchanges of visits between government leaders and officials, the private sectors and citizens of both countries.

The diplomat highlighted the official visit to Malaysia by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung in August this year in reciprocation of the Prime Minister of Malaysia’s official visit to Hanoi in April 2014, saying that it has certainly further strengthened the bonds of friendship between the leaders of the two countries.

The visit also underlined the significance of Malaysia’s relationship with Vietnam in various fields of cooperation among others, trade and investment, cooperation in education, agriculture, defence and security as well as other regional and international issues of mutual concern, he said, adding that both leaders also committed to upgrading the existing Malaysia-Vietnam comprehensive partnership to strategic partnership level.-VNA