ASEAN Takes Firm Steps Forward

15:46 | 24/01/2011 Cooperation

(VEN) - Vietnam Economic News' Ngo Thu Hang spoke with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Gia Khiem about Vietnam's performance in the role of the 2010 ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) chairmanship on the threshold of the 2011 Lunar New Year.

What is your assessment of ASEAN cooperation results achieved in 2010 while Vietnam performed the ASEAN chairmanship?

Vietnam performed the 2010 ASEAN chairmanship at a time that ASEAN began implementing a five-year schedule to further develop an ASEAN Community by 2015. Acknowledging both opportunities and challenges for ASEAN in this important stage, Vietnam proposed that 2010 be a year of action for ASEAN, aimed at realizing the target of constructing an ASEAN Community with the theme 'Toward the ASEAN Community: From Vision to Action', and ASEAN member countries agreed with this proposal. While Vietnam performed the 2010 ASEAN chairmanship, ASEAN took firm steps forward to reach the community construction target. Major achievements include:

First, ASEAN promoted the unification process while developing more strongly, widely and deeply. Under the above-mentioned theme, ASEAN changed considerably in terms of action and enforceability in ASEAN cooperation as well as cooperation with ASEAN's dialogue partners. The implementation of the ASEAN Community construction blueprint continued achieving concrete results in political, security, economic, cultural and social fields and in shortening the development gap. ASEAN leaders agreed upon an overall plan on ASEAN connectivity, an important document supplementation to the ASEAN Community construction schedule, aimed at strengthening ASEAN connectivity and creating conditions for expanding connectivity throughout Southeast Asia. The fact that the ASEAN Chapter, which took effect in December 2008, has been realized creates a legal framework and a necessary institutional base for further strengthening ASEAN connectivity.

Second, ASEAN external relations developed both quantitatively and qualitatively. Relations between ASEAN and main partners within the ASEAN+1 framework was promoted and improved. The ASEAN-Republic of Korea (RoK) relationship was developed into a strategic partnership, while relations with China and Japan continued developing more deeply and widely, relations with the US were transformed into strategic partnership relations, and relations with the remaining partners (India, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, the EU, Canada and the United Nations) continued being strengthened based on strengthened comprehensive partnership. ASEAN+3 cooperation developed deeply and broadly in 22 fields with almost 60 different policies, especially economic and financial areas. Notable was the Chiang Mai initiative multilateralization agreement worth US$120 billion that took effect in March 2010. The EAS (East Asia Summit) process continued developing dynamically with two important hallmarks: A Joint statement on the fifth anniversary of EAS and the decision to open EAS to Russia and the US from 2011. Partners continued emphasizing that they respect and want to further strengthen comprehensive cooperation with ASEAN and support ASEAN Community construction and ASEAN's performance of the ruling role in the region. Many countries and groups of countries expressed wishes to promote or establish relations with ASEAN through different ways.

Third, ASEAN's role in the region and position in the international arena has improved considerably. ASEAN continued playing the central role in dialogue processes and cooperation for peace, stability and joint development in the bloc, greatly contributing to forming a regional structure in the future. Apart from the existing forums and policies, ASEAN created new policies such as the first Meeting of the ASEAN Chiefs of Security Agencies (MACOSA) and the ASEAN Defense Ministers' Meeting Plus (ADMM+), contributing to promoting dialogues and cooperation in regional politics and security. ASEAN's contributions to global forums such as the United Nations and the Group of Twenty (G-20) in 2010 were recognized and highly rated.

Moreover, cooperation within ASEAN and with partners, which is aimed at coping with global challenges, was promoted and obtained encouraging progress. At summits held in 2010, ASEAN leaders expressed their strong political commitments and agreed upon many important agreements in order to actively realize cooperation measures at both regional and international levels that pursue those joint targets.

ASEAN leaders agreed upon an overall plan on ASEAN connectivity at the 17th ASEAN Summit. Could you tell about some important parts and purposes and the significance of the plan? How will this plan be realized by ASEAN?

The overall plan on ASEAN connectivity, compiled by a working group specifically in charge of connectivity chaired by Vietnam in 2010, was approved by ASEAN leaders at the 17th ASEAN Summit in October 2010 in Hanoi. This plan is aimed at concretizing the ASEAN connectivity initiative that was approved at the 15th ASEAN Summit in October 2009, purposing to comprehensively strengthen ASEAN connectivity in terms of infrastructure, institutions and manpower. Accordingly, ASEAN will implement 17 major strategies with almost 100 measures and 15 priority projects to connect ASEAN in terms of transportation, energy, information and communications, trade and investment facilitation and migration, and strengthen education, cultural exchange and tourism promotion.

Constructed in the key year of the ASEAN Community construction schedule, this overall plan is of a great significance, as it contributes remarkably to constructing an ASEAN Community that is thoroughly connected and highly competitive and is the nucleus of connections in Southeast Asia in the future.

ASEAN will establish an ASEAN Infrastructure Fund to prepare initial resources for the overall plan's implementation. Besides, it will mobilize more resources from dialogue countries, multilateral banks, private businesses and other donors. In early 2011, ASEAN will establish an ASEAN connectivity Coordinating Committee to supervise and manage the overall plan implementation.

 2010 is said a successful year of Vietnam as the ASEAN chairman. Vietnam has done a good job performing the 2010 ASEAN chairmanship?

ASEAN's success and hallmarks that Vietnam created in the year in which it performed the ASEAN chairmanship have been highly rated by ASEAN and international partners. At the closing ceremony of the 17th ASEAN Summit, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the 2011 ASEAN chairman, thanked and congratulated Vietnam for its excellent performance of the 2010 ASEAN chairmanship that contributed to promoting ASEAN's sustainable, strong development and making the association come closer to the target of constructing an ASEAN Community in 2015. ASEAN leaders and ASEAN general secretary confided their assessments of Vietnam's important contributions to strengthening solidarity, realizing targets and improving ASEAN's position and role.

That success and hallmarks are first attributed to the fact that Vietnam initiated and promoted a successful fulfillment of targets and priorities of ASEAN in 2010 aimed at satisfying ASEAN's demands in the new development stage. With a year going theme focusing on action, while ASEAN cooperation was implemented, we took the initiative in promoting the enforceability ethics, dignifying supervision and evaluation to assure that ASEAN policies and agreements are all realized seriously and in accordance with the approved schedule. This is integral for regional connectivity and ASEAN Community construction efforts.

Friends and partners in the region as well as the rest of the world have highly rated and recognized Vietnam's initiative, activeness and sense of responsibility in presiding over and managing ASEAN meetings, coordinating ASEAN's common standpoint towards issues emerging in the region as well as functioning as an ASEAN representative to participate in important international forums such as the G-20 Summit.

In sum, what Vietnam has done and contributed to ASEAN as the 2010 ASEAN chairman derives from a high sense of responsibility of an ASEAN member as well as enthusiasm for an ASEAN community towards dynamic and sustainable development which features benefits of Vietnam and all other ASEAN member countries./.