You have studied the ASEAN economy for years. What in Vietnam has impressed you the most in its contribution to the bloc’s development?
|Kavi Chongkittavorn, senior advisor of the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia
Vietnam has been a member of the ASEAN since 1995 and has performed as a proactive member in the region’s activities, particularly in the economy. Vietnam has been a non-permanent member of the United Nations in 2008-2009, and the chair of the ASEAN in 1998 and 2010. Through its initiatives, Vietnam has made great contributions to the peace and development of the world as well as the region.
This year, the country once again assumed the roles of ASEAN chair and non-permanent member of the UN Security Council (UNSC), this time simultaneously. Vietnam will be able to use its unique experiences for the benefit of the region and the broader community. Vietnam’s economic growth reached 7.02 per cent last year. The country has become a model of economic development as it has one of the most open trading systems and boasts many free trade agreements with partners.
The next step is to make sure that economic growth and the dividend is filtered down to the community level to the people, because the ASEAN’s target is benefiting its citizens. Vietnam is in a very good position to do so, because it has in three decades transformed into one of the leading economies in the ASEAN.
The ASEAN Year 2020 is themed “Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN”. How significant is it to strengthening solidarity and co-operation?
The theme has a bigger focus than the one advanced last year. It will be good for the ASEAN because with a focused and narrowed theme, it will be easier for the region to classify and make better and faster decisions. In being cohesive, Vietnam would like enhance the bloc’s centrality and solidarity, promote the region’s internal capacities of all members and sustainable development of the ASEAN Community. Meanwhile, in being responsive, Vietnam would like to promote ASEAN capacities in all areas to better cope with rapid and complicated developments in the Asia-Pacific region and the wider world, such as strategic competition among major powers, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and non- traditional security threats. With the theme “Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN”, Vietnam would like to promote closer links in politics, security, economics, trade, and social and cultural pillars, putting ASEAN citizens at the centre of the development process.
You have mentioned Vietnam’s targets in the role of being ASEAN chair, but 2020 has so far got off to a complex start. What should Vietnam do to bring the ASEAN more benefits?
In 2020, there are several key issues that Vietnam in the role of ASEAN chair needs to solve, including the second special ASEAN-US Summit, in which Vietnam and Laos will be co-ordinators. The parties involved have to work out what would be some creative ideas. So far, the points in the Sunnylands Declaration, signed during the Barack Obama presidency, have been the best document involving the ASEAN and the US.
Also of importance are the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, and the 15th East Asia Summit in Hanoi in November. These are key events for the development of the ASEAN and Vietnam. People expect Vietnam to be disciplined as a chair, as well as being neutral and proactive. It will focus on assets, centrality, and most importantly putting the ASEAN interest ahead of anything else.
Vietnam can do this successfully. As Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has said, “Let us think on a community scale, act in a community scale, and share community values. There are no ties more enduring than those connecting our hearts. Let our efforts take the ASEAN far and wide, and at the same time, keep the ASEAN close to our hearts.”
In terms of carrying out the role of non-permanent member of the UNSC, it is most important to serve as a bridge between the ASEAN and the UN on common issues. At the UNSC, Vietnam can highlight what the ASEAN has done, and could increase more support.
The other issues are on peace and security. Without them, economic development and continuity of sustainable development will be unfulfilled. So, Vietnam, as an objective part of this, should promote the role of peacekeeping in the UN.
Finally, regarding the media, although Vietnamese media has been more active compared to 10 years ago, I think people need more articles in English about ASEAN activities especially. Let’s see the country write its own stories based on trusted sources of news.