Delegates at the conference on enhancing comprehensive Asia-Europe Partnership in the 21st century in Hanoi on April 20. (Source: dangcongsan.vn)

Hanoi (VNA) – The Foreign Ministry opened a conference on “Enhancing the comprehensive Asia-Europe Partnership in the 21 st century” in Hanoi on April 20 to review two decades of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) and make proposals on the grouping’s track in the third decade. 

The proposals are to be submitted to the upcoming 11th ASEM Summit in Mongolia this July. 

Addressing the event, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh said ASEM has developed into a key platform for policy dialogue and cooperation between Asia and Europe after 20 years, benefiting its member states in terms of maintaining peace and security, economic recovery and tackling global issues. 

The deputy PM noted that entering the second decade of the 21st century, the need has arisen for ASEM to elevate its cooperation and strengthen its role in the forming multi-polar structure in the world in the context of deep changes in today’s global and regional settings. Amidst the trends of multi-polarisation and democratization, partnerships and new-generation free trade agreements (FTAs) in the two continents are growing in both number and complexity alongside global challenges, such as poverty, development gap, climate change, natural disasters, aging population, and water-food-energy security nexus. 

It is beyond the capacity of any single nation to address those issues, Deputy PM Minh said, stressing that it is vital for ASEM to stay relevance by expanding connectivity and seeking new drive for development that fosters deeper, more comprehensive and multi-faceted collaboration. 

Minh asked the conference participants to discuss ways for improving the effectiveness of ASEM in line with the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change. 

He suggested that policy dialogue should focus on addressing challenges at both global and continental levels, particularly security threats, on the basis of mutual benefit, harmonization of differences and respect for international law. 

Speaking of economics and development, he urged the participants to push for economic restructuring and reforms, regional connectivity and the growth of creative economies in a bid to promote sustainable development. 

Sustainable social welfare systems are also needed with the emphasis on vulnerable people like children, women, people with disabilities and the elderly, he added. 

All initiatives and cooperation mechanism should be people-centred with the increasing participation of people, especially the youth and small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the official said. 

Deputy PM Minh also hailed the significance of ASEM forum to Vietnam, as the mechanism’s membership includes 19 out of 25 strategic and comprehensive partners of Vietnam. ASEM member states are also the source of 70 percent of foreign direct investment in Vietnam, 70 percent of foreign trade and 80 percent of international tourist arrivals. 

Fourteen out of 16 FTAs Vietnam has inked or been negotiating are with ASEM partners, he noted. 

He pledged that Vietnam will work together with other member states to upgrade the Asia-Europe partnership and build a people-centred, dynamic, connected, independent ASEM community. 

During the conference, representatives from ministries, state agencies and businesses made recommendations on ways to liven up economic cooperation towards sustainable development and enhance the pragmatism of political dialogue, thus increasing ASEM’s contribution to addressing global challenges and strengthening Asia-Europe connectivity. 

They also shared experience in joining ASEM cooperation and proposed ways for Vietnam to take up a bigger role in ASEM in the next decade.-VNA