The ASEAN Pretoria Committee (APC) in South Africa hosted a banquet on September 9 to celebrate the 46th anniversary of the founding of the Association of South East Asian Nations ( ASEAN).

Addressing more than 300 guests at the event, APC’s current Chairman - Indonesian Ambassador to South Africa Sjahril Sabaruddin gave a brief account of ASEAN’s 46-year history, which sees the grouping grow into a major regional organisation with 10 member countries playing an indispensable role in Asia and the world.

He highlighted ASEAN’s efforts to achieve the goal of forming the ASEAN Community in 2015.

The ambassador affirmed that ASEAN member nations want to strengthen multi-faceted ties with South Africa as well as other countries both inside and outside the region for mutual development.

On behalf of South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation, Ambassador Anil Sooklai, acting Director General in charge of Asia and the Middle East said his country treasures the traditional friendship with ASEAN countries and wishes to further boost cooperation with the group’s members in the fields of politics-diplomacy, economy-trade, and culture-education-tourism.

He added that the ties between South Africa and ASEAN nations have received a boost with visits by senior officials of both sides in August this year, including those made by Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh from Aug. 5-7 and Thai Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul from Aug. 21-22, as well as South African President Jacob Zuma’s trip to Malaysia from Aug. 25-27.

Talking with the Vietnam News Agency’s Pretoria-based correspondent on the occasion, Vietnamese Ambassador to South Africa Le Huy Hoang said the cooperation between ASEAN and South Africa has great potentials to grow, particularly in the field of trade-economy. He cited as examples the increasing bilateral trade turnover between South Africa and many ASEAN countries, which almost reached 1 billion USD in the case of Vietnam and 5 billion USD with Thailand in 2012.

The ambassador added that South Africa also wants to expand cooperation in such fields as infrastructure development, technology transfer, education and tourism.-VNA