Singapore (VNA) – Promoting integration within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will be the overriding priority of Singapore when the country takes the rotating chairmanship of ASEAN in 2018, Singaporean Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishna has told a Vietnam News Agency correspondent.

Singapore will focus on the themes of “resilience” and “innovation”, he stressed, adding that with “resilience” means short-term and long-term solutions to terrorism, security threats and natural calamities while “innovation” features ways to cope with challenges posed by the digital revolution, equip ASEAN labourers with necessary skills, and find new momentum for development.

He also pointed out major challenges faced by the bloc, which has a total gross domestic product (GDP) of 2.5 trillion USD and a population of 628 million, bigger than the European Union (EU).

External developments continue to affect ASEAN, including changes in geo-strategic balance of power and shaky agreements on trade liberation, economic integration and investments among countries, he noted.

The other challenge, he said, is the development speed of technology which results in the disappearance of old jobs and creation of new ones. However, workers are yet to have suitable skills.

Accordingly, Balakrishna recommended that governments of ASEAN member states should shake up their economies, enhance workforce’s capacity, and improve capacity and skills for their people in order to provide them with new jobs.-VNA