The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is fully capable of affirming its position as a polar in a multipolar world as well as its centrality in the regional cooperation and architecture, Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh said at the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit in Jakarta, Indonesia, on September 4.
Addressing the forum, themed “ASEAN Centrality: Innovating Towards Greater Inclusivity,” the Vietnamese leader said the bloc boasts an open and extensive economic landscape with a network of eight Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), including the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) and seven others with key partners.
Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh speaks at the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit in Jakarta, Indonesia, on September 4.
Notably, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement establishes a free trade region encompassing 30% of the world's population (with over 688 million people) and 32% of global GDP (amounting to over 3.6 trillion USD in 2022).
In addition, numerous new initiatives have been launched to enable ASEAN to otimise opportunities arising from emerging development trends such as the establishment of the ASEAN Digital Economy Framework Agreement, the Framework for a Circular Economy, the Blue Economy Framework, and the ASEAN Strategy for Carbon Neutrality, along with negotiations to upgrade the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement and its FTAs with China, the Republic of Korea (RoK), Japan and India, among others.
ASEAN has stayed independent and self-resilient, and remained a bright spot in economic growth that reached 5.6% last year, and is expected to stay at 4.5% this year, the PM continued.
The intra-bloc trade was valued at over 856 billion USD, accounting for about 22% of ASEAN’s total trade revenue, he said, adding that the group has effectively coped with challenges in energy security and food security, and combated the Covid-19 pandemic.
ASEAN has served as a pivotal link in regional cooperation mechanisms through its relations and collaboration with external partners, according to the Vietnamese leader.
Through mechanisms such as ASEAN 1, ASEAN 3 and the East Asia Summit (EAS), ASEAN countries have established and maintained balanced and flexible relations with partners outside the bloc.
Foreign countries have supported ASEAN's centrality and accepted its common principles and standards, PM Chinh said, noting that 43 countries have joined the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC).
To help ASEAN carry forward its role and position, and utilise opportunities, PM Chinh suggested the bloc strengthen its intra-bloc solidarity, and maintain its principles, and common stances and views, as well as strategic balances in relations with partners.
ASEAN also needs to maintain long-term commitments to market opening and trade and investment promotion, he said, proposing the bloc promote FTAs, and regional and global economic connectivity; and step up regional integration to better harness each other's strengths in seizing opportunities in the new global economy, especially emerging growth drivers such as digital transformation, green transition, circular economy, and sharing economy.
Social equality and progress and environmental protection should not be traded for economic growth, he said, stressing that people should be the centre, actor, target and momentum of development.
To further uphold the role of businesses in spurring growth and creating new breakthroughs for ASEAN, PM Chinh held that governments and enterprises need to cooperate more closely, effectively and practically.
In this regard, countries should work together to perfect institutions by standardising and harmonising investment and business regulations, and simplifying procedures through digital transformation, he suggested.
Governments and businesses need to work together in strategic infrastructure development, and high-quality personnel development, considering this the key to raising regional productivity and competitiveness.
As a reliable partner and an active, responsible member, Vietnam will continue to closely coordinate with Indonesia and other ASEAN countries in an effort to build a united, self-resilient, and developed ASEAN, helping to maintain an environment of peace, stability, cooperation and development in the region and the world, the PM pledged.
He used this occasion to call on investors to come to Vietnam with the motto of "harmonising interests and sharing risks."
PM Chinh noted his belief that ASEAN in general and the business community in particular will keep pace with new trends, effectively address challenges, and ensure a balance between short-term recovery and growth, and long-term sustainable development.