Vietnam’s joining of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) 20 years ago marked the country’s first breakthrough in international integration, contributing to the implementation of the Party’s foreign policy of multilateralisation and diversification, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh told the press.

The decision to become a member of ASEAN is a sound strategic step of the Vietnamese Party and State given the bloc’s significant and substantial benefits, including the creation of a favourable international environment for Vietnam’s national cause of construction and defence, he said.

He continued that right after joining ASEAN, Vietnam played an active role in the admission of Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar into the association, making the dream of an ASEAN inclusive of all 10 member nations to come true.

Vietnam has worked with other member states to drive ASEAN in the right direction, proven by Vietnam’s significant contribution to strategic documents such as the ASEAN Vision 2020, Declaration of ASEAN Concord II, ASEAN Charter, and 2009-2015 Roadmap for an ASEAN Community, he said.

At present, Vietnam is actively participating in building a post-2015 ASEAN Vision, focusing on deepening ASEAN connectivity, he added.

Just three years after entering ASEAN, Vietnam successfully hosted the sixth ASEAN Summit in Hanoi in December 1998.

The country also successfully fulfilled its role as ASEAN chairmanship in 2010.

It is noteworthy that Vietnam has played an active role in expanding and institutionalising the ASEAN relations framework with important partners. During its year as ASEAN chair, Vietnam demonstrated its strategic vision beyond the region via the admission of the US and Russia to the expanded East Asia Summit (EAS), the organisation of the first ASEAN Defence Ministerial Meeting Plus (ADMM+) and the campaign to become an ASEAN representative to attend the G-20 Summit in the Republic of Korea and Canada.

Vietnam together with ASEAN has proven that the region’s future will be better envisaged through integration, dialogue and cooperation, Deputy PM Pham Binh Minh said.

He noted that Vietnam is leading members in implementing measures to build the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) with an impressive 93.5 percent compared to the average 90.5 percent of other member states.

Vietnam has also taken part in cooperation activities in politics-security, culture-society and external affairs, he stressed.

The establishment of the ASEAN Community will create both opportunities and challenges for Vietnam and the other member states.

The country has conditions to access to markets inside and outside the bloc, increase foreign investment and acquire experience in science-technology and human resources management and development to build and fine-tune domestic policies and regulations in line with international standards.

It is also becoming easier for Vietnam to expand and strengthen cooperation with partners outside the bloc and deepen its involvement in inter-regional and international collaboration frameworks to increase the country’s role and position in the world.

Deputy PM Pham Binh Minh also pointed to difficulties in promoting ASEAN connectivity and strengthening the association’s solidarity, unity and significant role in the region, mainly due to institutional differences, development gaps and national interests among member states.

Vietnam would face fierce competition during the implementation of commitments on economic links, he said, adding that the country should better prepare and make effective financial investments in the field such as adjusting domestic policies, regulations and administrative formalities in line with international commitments.

He explained the significance of the “people-centred” ASEAN theme this year as urging leaders of each member state to raise the sense of responsibility to ensure peace, stability, sustainable development; improve living standards for people; and create development opportunities for individuals and the community.

Each individual should be aware of the important and pragmatic benefits of ASEAN cooperation across politics-security, economics, culture and society, he said, adding that the Vietnamese Government encourages public engagement in ASEAN connectivity.-VNA