ASEAN, partners vow to boost cooperation for regional development hinh anh 1Heads of delegations participating in ASEAN-EU ministerial meeting (Source: VNA)
A series of meetings between ASEAN Foreign Ministers and the group’s 10 partners took place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on August 5. 

At the meetings, FMs of ASEAN and partners mapped out orientations and measures to boost bilateral cooperation in the time ahead, and exchanged opinions on regional and international issues of mutual concern, and looked at preparations for summits between ASEAN and several partners later this year. 

They spoke highly of the results gained during the implementation of action plans in 2010-2015, while agreeing to continue deepening relations between ASEAN and partner countries in the fields of common interests, including politics-security, economics, trade, investment, development gap reduction, climate change adaptation, disaster management, and disease prevention. 

The partner countries welcomed the significance of the formation of the ASEAN Community by the end of this year, affirming that they treasure multi-faceted cooperation with ASEAN and support the group in expanding connectivity and narrowing development gap. 

They also pledged to back the central role of ASEAN especially at regional forums where ASEAN holds the leading role, as well as coordinating closely with the group in maintaining peace, stability, and development in the region. 

The ministers also focused discussions on regional and international issues, such as the self-claimed Islamic State, non-traditional security challenges, and hot spots like the Korean Peninsula, East China Sea and East Sea, stressing that countries should intensify collaboration to deal with these challenges. 

Regarding the East Sea issue, the ministers reaffirmed that the East Sea issue is a common concern and interest of all countries inside and outside the region. 

They shared concerns that recent complicated developments have seriously affected peace, maritime and aviation security, safety and freedom in the East Sea, while emphasizing the importance of handling disputes by peaceful means on the basis of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea; exercising self-restraint, not using or threatening to use force, implementing the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea fully and effectively, and working towards the early formation of a Code of Conduct in the East Sea. 

The ministers also took the occasion to work out specific directions to further enhance ties between ASEAN and its partners. 

At the ASEAN-China meeting, the participants agreed to speed up agreed-upon proposals, including upgrading the ASEAN-China free trade agreement, and striving for 150 billion USD in two-way investments by 2020. They agreed to designate 2016 as the year for educational exchanges, while pledging to coordinate closely to successfully organise activities to mark the 25 th anniversary of the ASEAN-China dialogue partnership in 2016 and soon complete a 2016-2020 action plan to be submitted to the ASEAN-China Summit this November for approval. 

At the ASEAN-Japan meeting, the two sides reached a consensus on intensifying cooperation on four pillars as said in the ASEAN-Japan vision statement and the action plan to carry out this statement. They vowed to work more closely to tackling regional and global challenges as mentioned in the 2013 ASEAN-Japan Joint Statement as well as in the fields of culture, people-to-people exchange. Japan committed to continue its support for the ASEAN Community building, while ASEAN welcomed Japan’s approval of its new Tokyo Strategy 2015 for Japan-Mekong Cooperation. 

Meanwhile, ASEAN and the Republic of Korea (RoK) adopted the ASEAN-RoK action plan for 2016-2020, agreeing to boost people-centered cooperation activities, develop small- and medium-sized enterprises, and cooperate closely in culture, education and disaster and climate change response. They also agreed to maximize the value of the ASEAN-RoK free trade agreement to raise two-way trade to 200 billion USD by 2020. 2017 will be made the year for cultural exchange between the two sides. 

At the ASEAN-India meeting, the ministers approved the two sides’ action plan for 2016-2020 with the aim of further deepening the bilateral strategic partnership. They vowed to boost the implementation of the ASEAN-India free trade agreement and the Agreement on ASEAN-India Trade in Services and Investment, which came into effect on July 1, 2015, while expanding partnership to other fields such as sea management, disaster control and addressing non-traditional security challenges. 

The meeting of ASEAN and Russia reached agreement on quickly completing the draft post-2015 action plan for it to be approved by the end of this year. The two sides will hold a commemorative summit and other activities to mark the 20 th anniversary of the ASEAN-Russia dialogue partnership, and promote the efficiency of their dialogue partnership financial fund through carrying out joint projects. 

At the ASEAN-EU meeting, the two sides vowed to accelerate cooperation towards a strategic partnership, early resume negotiations on the ASEAN-EU free trade agreement, actively prepare for the fourth ASEAN-EU Business Summit, boost cooperation on maritime security and preventive diplomacy, and work closely to deal with non-traditional challenges such as trans-national crime, terrorism, human trafficking, and cyber security. 

The ASEAN and the US agreed to upgrade the dialogue relationship to the strategic partnership level, and enhance cooperation on security, economics, socio-economic affairs and sustainable development inlcdung education, healthcare, the environment and climate change, marine environment protection, fishing, cultural and people-to-people exchange. The cooperative ties between the US and Lower Mekong countries will also be further boosted. 

Meanwhile, ASEAN and Canadian ministers approved the 2016-2020 action plan and agreed to enhance cooperation in trade, investment, clean and renewable energies, agriculture and food security, among others. 

During the ASEAN-Australia meeting, ASEAN welcomed Australia’s decision to contribute an additional 1 million USD to operations of the ASEAN Humanitarian Assistance Centre from June 2015-June 2016. ASEAN ministers also hailed Australia’s implementation of a new Colombo plan to boost people-to-people exchange, and its decision to extend the second phase of the ASEAN-Australia development cooperation programme until 2019. 

At the ASEAN-New Zealand meeting, the ministers agreed to propose upgrading the bilateral ties to the strategic partnership level to the senior leaders for consideration. They affirmed resolve to successfully organise a commemorative summit in November 2015 and activities to celebrate the 40th anniversary of establishment of bilateral ties. They also agreed to continue implementing four pilot initiatives to support the ASEAN Community building process.-VNA