The ASEAN Foreign Ministers (AMM) Retreat took place in Hua Hin town, more than 200km south of Bangkok , on August 13 and 14.

Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh was among ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to attend the retreat, the first of its kind this year.

The two-day event focused on the direction of the ASEAN Community beyond 2015 to ensure continued peace, stability and sustainable economic growth in the region.

It also included preparations for the upcoming Special ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers Meeting to be held in Beijing from August 28-30, which will commemorate the 10th anniversary of the ASEAN-China Strategic Partnership.

The ministers also discussed issues relating to ASEAN-China relations and measures to boost their Strategic Partnership, paving the way for the upcoming 16th ASEAN-China Summit in October in Brunei.

Regarding the future direction for ASEAN after 2015, the ministers agreed that it is necessary to speed up the implementation of objectives towards building of an ASEAN Community by 2015, while beginning discussions on a vision for the grouping at the same time, so that ASEAN will maintain its strong and stable development and promote its central role in both regional and global issues in the decades after 2015. They said from now to December 31, 2015, the group should draft a roadmap on building the post-2015 vision for ASEAN.

The top priority until the end of 2015 is to well implement the plan to set up the ASEAN Community, they said, urging member countries to work harder to mobilize all resources for important cooperation programme of the association, such as the master plan on ASEAN connectivity (MPAC), the Work Plan II of the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) to narrow the development gap.

The member countries should also expand external relations and make full use of support from partners for the building of the Community, they said.

As for the post-2015 vision for ASEAN, the minister agreed that it should embody a long-term view, while inheriting and multiplying the achievements reached during the building of the Community from 2009 to 2015.

They discussed major principles for the vision outlining process as well as a roadmap for the work.

On the ASEAN-China strategic partnership, the minister said the ties have seen rapid and comprehensive developments in all fields of politics-security, economics and specialized areas, benefiting both sides and contributing to peace, stability, cooperation and prosperity in the region.

Besides continuing to boosting the existing ties, ASEAN and China should also further their cooperation in the 11 prioritised areas as defined before, including agriculture, information and communications technology, resource development, two-way investment, Mekong basin development, transport, energy, culture, tourism, public health and environment.

The ministers highly valued the positive outcomes of the cooperation, especially in economics and trade.

Two-way trade between the two sides almost hit 400 billion USD in 2012, while total Chinese investment in ASE AN has surpassed 100 billion USD, they noted.

China has been ASEAN’s largest trade partner for many consecutive years, while the association is also China ’s third biggest trade partner.

The ministers reached high consensus that in the future, the association should exert more efforts in implementing the ASEAN-China plan of action for 2011-2015 period and striving for 500 billion USD in two-way trade in 2015.

As part of activities to mark the 10 th year of the ASEAN-China strategic partnership, foreign ministers of ASEAN and China will convene a special meeting from August 28-30, and leaders of both sides are expected to issue a commemorative joint declaration on the occasion of the 16th ASEAN-China Summit scheduled for October this year in Brunei .

Discussing the East Sea issues, the ministers emphasised the significance of the ASEAN-China relations in maintaining peace, stability and maritime security and safety in the East Sea , the settlement of disputes through peaceful methods, with respect for international law and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

In particular, the minister stressed that on this occasion, the two sides should pay more attention to and step up negotiations for the soon establishment of a Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC), aiming to better ensure peace, stability and maritime security and safety in the East Sea.

During the ASEAN-China Ministers’ Meeting in Brunei on June 30, the two sides agreed to hold an official consultation between senior officials of both sides to discuss the COC. ASEAN foreign ministers agreed to work closer together to speed up the negotiations in a practical manner.

Addressing the event, Vietnamese FM Minh said that in outlining a post-2015 vision, attention should be paid to lifting internal connectivity to a new height while pursuing the essential principles of ASEAN, especially the principle of consensus, and enhancing the central role of the grouping in the regional architecture.

He proposed a number of specific measures to serve the vision-building process, such as reviewing the implementation of the master plan for ASEAN Politics-Security Community, and finalising the evaluation of the implementation of the master plans for Social-Culture Community and the Economic Community.

FM Minh said following the formation of the ASEAN Community, a general assessment is necessary to define the strengths and weaknesses of the grouping.

He also suggested setting up a special taskforce to perform the work of reviewing roles and functions of ASEAN’s agencies and the association’s Charter.

The Vietnamese FM recognised the achievements and strong growth of the ASEAN-China strategic partnership over the past decade, emphasising the need to lift the ties to a new height on the basis of friendly neighbourliness and mutual benefit.

He also introduced a number of measures to further boost the ASEAN-China relations, while calling for more support from China for ASEAN’s priorities.

He also said it is vital to strengthen existing cooperation mechanisms and tools, such as the ASEAN-China free trade agreement, ASEAN-China trade fairs and ASEAN-China Centres, while promoting connectivity in people-to-people and cultural exchanges.

Regarding the East Sea issue, FM Minh stressed the importance of the maintenance of an environment of peace, stability and security in the East Sea, as well as the peaceful solving of disputes with respect for international law and the 1982 UNCLOS.

At the same time, he reaffirmed the commitments of all parties to the full and effective implementation of all aspects of the Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC), as well as the necessity of the early formation of the COC.-VNA