Deputy PM Pham Binh Minh. Photo: VNA
The dynamic growth of ASEAN economies in the wake of the global financial crisis in 2008-2009 was one of the important factors for the encouraging growth of East Asia. ASEAN has also been active in promoting regional integration and connectivity by its community building process, which is scheduled to be completed by 2015, as well as by various economic cooperation arrangements with its partners, including China, Japan, ROK, India, Australia, New Zealand, among others.
The reshaping of the world economy, the increase of economic connectivity and integration and the transformation of growth models toward sustainability have generated both opportunities for and challenges to countries and regions. Such context asks for an adaptive ASEAN being able to maintain and boost growth while maximising its centrality in promoting the East Asian integration and connectivity.
In my opinion, there are three important points that require the attention of ASEAN members.
- First, to be the nucleus of the regional integration and connectivity, ASEAN countries need robust internal strengths, especially economic power, by developing a sustainable economic structure resilient to outside turbulences. Vietnam, like other ASEAN members, has been implementing economic restructuring with focus on the restructure of public expenditure, the banking sector and enterprises. We also actively engage in regional and international economic linkages as well as promoting multi-faceted cooperation with partners.
Deeper intra-bloc economic linkages will not only raise ASEAN’s internal strengths but also turn the association into a single economy, regionally ranked 2nd, with a population of 600 million, a combined GDP of 2.3 trillion USD. At the same time, ASEAN should focus on and maximise the advantages of an ASEAN-centered multi-layer and multi-dimensional network of connectivity and integration in East Asia, including intra-ASEAN integration, and its integration with existing FTAs Partners in East Asia as well as the establishment of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) by 2015, towards an attractive and fovourable economic environment that will embrace half of the world’s population and account for one third of the global GDP. Such network of connectivity and integration will enable ASEAN to fully exploit the region’s advantages, link with sub-regional programmes, and make best use of and promote economic linkages with partners in order to generate new momentum for the regional economic development.
- Second, alongside the Community building process, ASEAN needs to develop a feasible roadmap on integration and connectivity in the post-2015 period, built upon past progress and relevant to the character and development level of ASEAN. It should foresee the possibility and timing to develop ASEAN into a Customs Union or another model of higher integration level. The new roadmap should also address satisfactorily existing and future development-related issues such as green growth, clean energy, water security and environment, etc., include narrowing development gap and sustainable, equitable development. Viet Nam has recommended ASEAN to place poverty reduction and sustainable development at the center of its development agenda, which should also be compatible with and supplementary to the goals under the UN post-2015 development agenda.
- Third, ASEAN should work closely with its partners to ensure an environment conducive to the implementation and attainment of its goals on integration and connectivity. The association needs to maintain its unity, uphold shared responsibilities and maximise its centrality in addressing strategic issues, especially those related to peace, security and stability in the region. In particular, ASEAN needs to put together and share norms of conduct, including the expansion of the Bali Declaration on the Principles of Mutually Beneficial Relations, towards building a binding code of conduct in East Asia.
ASEAN should continue its centrality in addressing challenges, both the traditional and non-traditional security ones, including the East Sea (South China Sea) issue. The recent developments in the South China Sea affect not only concerned countries, but also peace, stability, maritime security in and overflight above the region. Viet Nam and other ASEAN members share the views that the parties concerned must settle disputes by peaceful means, exercise restraint and not use force and observe the international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS. The parties concerned should fully implement the DOC and work towards early conclusion a Code of Conduct (COC) to better ensure the peace, security and stability in the East Sea and the region. We call for an early substantive negotiation between ASEAN and China on the COC following the first official ASEAN – China SOM consultation in last September.