The ASEAN flag raising ceremony held by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hanoi on August 8 (Photo: VNA)
 
Hanoi (VNA) – Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh has highlighted the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as a strong and cohesive community in an article written on the occasion of the bloc’s 52nd founding anniversary (August 8).

A politically strong, economically cohesive, mutually sharing community

In his article, the official noted that with a population of more than 642 million and an area of over 1.7 million sq.km., ASEAN is a highly potential market. It is forecast to become the world’s fourth largest economy by 2050.

The ASEAN Community has entered the fourth year of development since its establishment on December 31, 2015 and is making efforts to realise the ASEAN Community Vision 2025, a process in which it has reaped initial encouraging progress.

For a regional environment of peace, security and stability, the ASEAN countries have been striving to promote dialogue, enhance cooperation, build trust, push for adherence to international law, and form and share common values and standards as recognised in the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC), the ASEAN Charter, the Southeast Asian Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone (SEANWFZ), and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC), Minh said.

He noted the bloc has also showed its steadfastness and capability of maintaining solidarity and unanimity in the face of issues affecting regional peace and security like the issues of the East Sea, the Muslims in Myanmar’s Rakhine state or the Korean Peninsula. Cooperation to prevent non-traditional security challenges have also continued to be enhanced.

According to Deputy PM Minh, efforts to boost economic partnership within the bloc and with partners have given ASEAN stable economic growth, predicted at 4.9 percent in 2019 – almost doubling the world’s average. The grouping’s gross domestic product (GDP) totals about 3 trillion USD while its market has expanded to the leading economic partners through bilateral free trade agreements and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

The initiatives on ASEAN connectivity, development gap narrowing or the ASEAN Open Skies are gradually realising the association’s goal of inclusive and sustainable development.

ASEAN has also become a popular travel destination with the number of intra-bloc tourists almost reaching 50 million and that of foreign tourists approximating 130 million in 2018.

Notably, people have been being put at the centre of the ASEAN Community building process, Deputy PM and FM Minh said, noting that the rights and interests of people in the region have been promoted through cooperation in coping with climate change, natural disasters and epidemics, protecting vulnerable groups, visa-free movement among ASEAN countries in 15 – 30 days, freely seeking employment through mutual recognition arrangements, and receiving consular assistance when encountering difficulties in a third country where their countries do not have representative agencies.

Solid central role in an open regional architecture

According to Deputy PM Minh, the ASEAN region, located in an important site of geo-strategic importance at the centre of the wide region connecting the Oceania and the Pacific, has been able to bring into play its central role in shaping an open, transparent, inclusive and rule-based regional cooperation architecture, with connectivity and harmonized interest with partners.

Forums launched and led by ASEAN have attracted the active engagement of countries, including world power, he noted, adding that five permanent members of the UN Security Council are all full partners of the ASEAN, while more and more countries are wishing to set up partnership with the ASEAN and join the TAC.

The official noted in the regional strategies of world powers, such as the Indo-Pacific Strategy, the Road and Belt, and the “Act East Policy”, the central role of the ASEAN has always been highlighted.

Cohesion for adaptation

Over the past five decades, the ASEAN has seen many ups and downs. But the association has managed to mature and become self-reliant and sustainable than ever. The key to success and strength of the ASEAN is solidarity, stated Minh.

He held that in order to stay steady and effectively adapt to complicated changes in the regional and global environment, more than ever the association must maintain solidarity and unity, enhancing self-reliance in economy as well as the capacity to cope with emerging challenges in a proactive manner.

Under the 2019 theme of “Advancing Partnership for Sustainability,” the ASEAN has continued to show its proactivity and adapting capacity.

With the adoption of the ASEAN Outlook on Indo-Pacific (AOIP) at the 34th ASEAN Summit in June, 2019, the ASEAN has demonstrated its central role and proactivity in the mixed changes of the region.

Developing smart city, dealing with oceanic debris, combining the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 with the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030, protecting cyber security, and coping with population aging are among remarkable milestones of the ASEAN over the years.

In the 52nd ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in early August this year, amidst complicated developments in the region, the minister continued to affirmed the ASEAN’s principled stance, highlighting the significance of conforming to international law and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and expressing concern about the current serious situation.

With the tension among major economies and the rising protectionism, the ASEAN is committed to further strengthening intra-bloc trade and investment, soon concluding the negotiations on the RCEP and reinforce the equal and rule-based international multilateral trade system.

As long as the ASEAN maintains its solidarity and unity, and remains bound by common values and interest that go beyond differences due to diversity, the ASEAN Community will be stable and everlasting, he underlined.

2020: Important milestone for Vietnam

The year 2020 will mark an important milestone when Vietnam assumes the role as the ASEAN Chair and the 25th anniversary of Vietnam’s accession to the bloc is celebrated, Deputy PM Minh wrote, adding that in the year, the country will also serve as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for the 2020-2021 tenure.

The official shared that the top priority of Vietnam in 2020 will be working with ASEAN to successfully implement goals of the ASEAN Community Vision 2025. This is also a chance for the country to boost bilateral relations with other ASEAN member states and partners, improve its international position, and promote the image of the country and its people.

To that end, Vietnam needs support from ASEAN member states and the bloc’s partners and joint efforts from all ministries, sectors, localities, businesses and people, Minh said.

According to him, Vietnam is doing its utmost to successfully perform its role as the ASEAN Chair in 2020 so as to build a united ASEAN Community that is proactively adaptive to any possible opportunities and challenges, Minh added. -VNA