Establishing deeper ties for ASEAN to solve new issues

September 15, 2020 | 10:00
Vietnam as ASEAN chair this year has been doing its utmost to drive the bloc forward. Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Nguyen Quoc Dung talked with VIR’s Khoi Nguyen about how ASEAN will perform in the context of pandemic to hit its goals.
establishing deeper ties for asean to solve new issues
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Nguyen Quoc Dung

At the 53rd ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and related events, ministers considered and provided comments for a number of partners’ proposals to establish new partnerships with ASEAN. How can Vietnam benefit from these new partnerships?

ASEAN’s position and prestige have been strongly increasing globally. That’s why the bloc has earned big interest and proposals to become its partners. ASEAN now has three partnership levels – full dialogue partnership, dialogue partnership in areas, and development partnership. The bloc has received proposals from countries at all the above levels. Recently, the UK proposed establishing full dialogue partnership while Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, and some other nations were also interested in setting up dialogue partnership in areas with ASEAN.

Also, France and Italy have proposed forging development partnership with the bloc. Besides this, some countries have also suggested joining the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia such as Cuba, the UAE, and Colombia. All proposals for the three levels are being considered.

The ASEAN Secretariat will help regional nations to assess the proposals whether the partnerships will benefit both sides, then ASEAN senior officials will consider and submit to ASEAN ministers who will scrutinise the proposals and provide comment.

Of course, when the new partnerships are forged, not only Vietnam, but also other ASEAN nations and the partners will benefit in sectors such as economy, trade, investment, and society in general.

ASEAN and its partners are negotiating the hallmark Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). How will the negotiations be continued?

The RCEP is one of the priorities of the bloc. Vietnam has actively stepped up negotiations for signing the agreement later this year in its capacity as ASEAN chair. At ASEAN ministers’ meetings, especially those discussing economic affairs, terms of the deal were reached and signed.

The participants are resolved to sign the deal this year. However, it is just hope, and we will have to wait until the year’s end to see whether the deal will be inked or not.

A comprehensive recovery framework for ASEAN is now under discussion. What are the details, and how can the Vietnamese economy benefit from it?

Creating an effective recovery plan for ASEAN is a big task for all regional nations. The plan will embrace many sectors such as economy, society, culture, politics, and security.

Currently, member states are contributing initiatives and ideas to building up the plan. The ASEAN Secretariat will collect them. Recently it organised a workshop to collect comments from stakeholders including enterprises, experts, and scholars for the plan.

So far, we have come up with the concept and orientations for the plan. After they are approved by ministers, they will be detailed into different sectors such as resuming travelling safely among nations, economic recovery, fostering regional supply chains, and supporting enterprises and people.

The plan is mostly focused on combining and harmonising policies of member states, while other issues such as establishing shared funds or a regional reserve of medical supplies will need technical or financial contributions from regional nations or from outside. The recovery plan should ensure benefiting the public, businesses, localities, and governments as all of them have been hit hard by COVID-19.

It is expected that the plan will also mention shared efforts by ASEAN to attract investment into the bloc. What exactly does this entail?

All nations and regions want to develop and enhance their role internationally, in order to attract more investment. So does ASEAN and so does Vietnam. However, to woo more investment, we must have a favourable climate in terms of policy, connectivity, human resources, infrastructure, and so on.

ASEAN is fully aware of how to create a more favourable environment to lure more investment within the bloc and from outside. Vietnam has also been improving its business climate to attract more investment and a large volume of foreign investment has come to the nation.

How important is the role of Vietnam in joining with regional nations and ASEAN partners in dealing with traditional and non-traditional challenges such as the pandemic?

COVID-19 is a very fast-spreading problem affecting almost all nations worldwide. To cope with it, ASEAN member states need to share common awareness about the danger of the pandemic, and to intensify commitments in acting in concert with proper policies, and strengthening international cooperation.

Vietnam undertakes the role as ASEAN chair during this special difficult time. Fully aware of its responsibilities, it has taken the initiative in cooperating with regional member states to take drastic measures against the pandemic. The country has quickly and temporarily shifted the focus into responding to COVID-19, and this has been considered a prime priority of ASEAN now.

Along with Vietnam, other ASEAN member states are fully aware about traditional and non-traditional challenges such as pandemics, terrorism, climate change, environmental pollution, and maritime safety. Dealing with them has become supremely important during our meetings.

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