Toward Global ASEAN

2:14:25 PM | 2/11/2020

At the 34th ASEAN Summit, Indonesia initiated and encouraged ASEAN leaders to adopt the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific, which is intended to enhance ASEAN centrality as the underlying principle for promoting cooperation with ASEAN-led mechanisms as platforms for dialogue and implementation of the Indo-Pacific cooperation. With respect to building an integrated, cohesive and dynamic ASEAN, Vietnam Business Forum conducted an interview with Indonesian Ambassador to Vietnam Ibnu Hadi. Nguyen Mai reports.

Would you please tell us about the role of Indonesia in building ASEAN into a stronger and more sustainable community?

At the 34th ASEAN Summit in Bangkok in 2019, Indonesia initiated and encouraged ASEAN leaders to adopt the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific that will serve as the guideline for ASEAN to establish its engagement in the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions. This outlook is intended to enhance ASEAN centrality as the underlying principle for promoting cooperation with ASEAN-led mechanisms as platforms for dialogue and implementation of the Indo-Pacific cooperation. The Outlook put forward several main areas of cooperation, including maritime cooperation, connectivity, and UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030, as well as economic and other areas of cooperation.

ASEAN identity has been long used in the forum without being defined clearly. Indonesia has taken the initiative to propose the Narrative of ASEAN Identity (NAI). When adopted, this document will serve as the binding factor of this regional organization as a shared identity will develop a stronger sense of one community. In addition, ASEAN identity is expected to strengthen ASEAN’s central and strategic role in cooperation with the ASEAN relevance. Hopefully, the Narrative of ASEAN Identity document will be adopted by the ASEAN leaders at the 37th ASEAN Summit in November 2020.

To promote the integration of ASEAN economic community and deepen its cooperation with the world’s major economies, what should the ASEAN business community do?

ASEAN economic community is one of the three pillars of the ASEAN Community that is designed to facilitate businesses in the region receiving access to Southeast Asia’s capital, technology, market and labor. ASEAN has made considerable efforts toward its regional integration and has a number of trade agreements that can bring more benefit to the business community.

In order to promote regional integration, ASEAN business community needs to enhance its qualifications as well as advance its labor forces’ capacity, including in foreign language skills. ASEAN business community should also be more aware of the opportunities provided by the AEC, increase the sharing of information and experience, and improve its communication with each other in the interest of exploring many opportunities offered by a more inclusive and integrated ASEAN economic community.

For instance, ASEAN has been working on building a mega trade pact, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership with several partners that is expected to be signed later this year. Once signed, it will be the world’s biggest free-trade agreement which will serve as an engine for economic recovery post-COVID-19.

What is the role of ASEAN in the Indo-Pacific region?

Since its establishment on 8 August 1967, ASEAN has witnessed a drastic transformation internally, as well as in its relations to other countries or organizations. Starting with only five founding members, ASEAN today has united 10 Southeast Asian countries as its members and gained increasing reputation and position in the Asia-Pacific region, as well as around the world. During its 53 years of existence, ASEAN has recorded several notable achievements. I will highlight two of its considerable achievements.

With regard to the Indo-Pacific, ASEAN has been playing an important role in preserving peace and stability in the region. The establishment of ASEAN Community was a substantial step toward regional integration. Moreover, ASEAN’s Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC), that focuses on the peaceful settlement of disputes and cooperation, has been endorsed by 40 parties including the ASEAN members and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. In addition, ASEAN has showed a consistent stance in the maintenance of peace and stability in the East Sea through the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC) in 2002 and the ongoing negotiations for the Code of Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (COC), which are expected to conclude soon.

A peaceful and stable ASEAN have also contributed positively to the economic development of the region. With its ASEAN Economic Community, ASEAN has established a single and open market with many economic opportunities. Its Economic Community Blueprint 2025 envisions an integrated and cohesive regional economy, a competitive and dynamic ASEAN, enhanced connectivity and sectoral cooperation, a resilient, inclusive, people-oriented ASEAN, and a global ASEAN. ASEAN also works on building a mega trade pact - Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership with several partners that is expected to be signed later this year during the 37th ASEAN Summit. Once signed, it will be the world’s biggest free-trade agreement which will serve as an engine for post-COVID-19 economic recovery.

Could you tell us what prospects does ASEAN hold for the coming time?

The biggest challenge for ASEAN is to maintain its relevance and its role in the ever-changing global situation. In order to stay relevant, ASEAN needs to bring concrete benefits to its people by being more adaptive and open to carrying out reforms that can ensure efficiency and effectiveness including its decision-making process.

However, since its establishment ASEAN today has united the 10 Southeast Asian countries and gained more reputation and position in the Asia-Pacific region as well as in the international arena.

ASEAN-led mechanisms built by ASEAN in its 53 years of existence have proved to be one of the forums to bring together many major powers. Apart from its cooperation with dialogue partners (Australia, Canada, China, European Union, India, Japan, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Russia, and the United States), forums like ASEAN Plus Three (APT), East Asia Summit or ASEAN Regional Forum have become important cooperation frameworks in promoting peace and prosperity in the region. Each forum serves as a platform for fostering constructive dialogue and cooperation in various issues.

Source: Vietnam Business Forum