Rising above challenges and sustaining growth

Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) released a vision statement following the 36th ASEAN Summit, which carried the theme ‘Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN’, on June 26. Here are the excerpts of the statement:

“We, the Heads of State/Government of the Member States of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), namely Brunei Darussalam, the Kingdom of Cambodia, the Republic of Indonesia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, the Republic of the Philippines, the Republic of Singapore, the Kingdom of Thailand, and the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam:

“Recalling the need to strengthen existing bonds of regional solidarity to realise an ASEAN Community that is politically cohesive, economically integrated and socially responsible in order to effectively respond to current and future challenges and opportunities as stipulated in the ASEAN Charter.

“Reaffirming the importance of building a peaceful, stable, rules-based, people-oriented, people-centred and resilient ASEAN Community with enhanced capacity to seize opportunities and respond effectively to challenges as stated in the ASEAN Community Vision 2025.

“Noting with satisfaction the significant progress made in the realisation of the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 through the implementation of the ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC), the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) and the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) Blueprints, as well as the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) Work Plan III and the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity (MPAC) 2025.

“Recognising the opportunities and challenges presented by rapidly-changing geopolitical and geo-economic landscapes, on-going complex traditional and non-traditional security challenges, swift development of science and technology, and social and economic ramifications of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, including disrupted production and supply chains, demand shocks, decreased trade and investment, financial vulnerabilities, high unemployment, growing inequality, and access to fewer resources and opportunities for vulnerable groups.

“Recalling the Declaration of the Special ASEAN Summit on COVID-19 that demonstrated our collective will and shared commitment to strengthen solidarity, enhance cooperation and mutual support among ASEAN Member States, with our external partners and the international community in the fight against COVID-19, as well as mitigate the multi-faceted impact of the pandemic while working towards a comprehensive post-pandemic recovery plan for ASEAN.

“Convinced of the need to realise a Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN, build on ASEAN’s achievements, maintain ASEAN’s unity and centrality, enhance ASEAN’s capacity to harness the opportunities brought about by the digital transformation and the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) in effectively responding to emerging challenges and opportunities, and chart a sustainable and resilient development path for the ASEAN Community.

“Understanding that the concepts of “cohesiveness” and “responsiveness” are interrelated and mutually-reinforcing in a way that a cohesive ASEAN can respond in an effective and timely manner to any challenges, whereas a responsive ASEAN would further strengthen its cohesion.”

The leaders also agreed to:

“Reaffirm our strong commitment to the effective implementation and timely realisation of the ASEAN 2025: Forging Ahead Together, stressing the importance of the Mid-Term Review (MTR) of the ASEAN Community Blueprints 2025 to help address outstanding issues and move the regional integration process forward taking into account the changing dynamics of the regional and global landscape.

“Sustain the momentum of ASEAN Community-building and be forward-looking in charting the continuing development of ASEAN beyond 2025.

“Strengthen ASEAN’s institutional capacity by improving and harmonising ASEAN work processes and coordination, as well as the efforts to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of ASEAN Organs and Bodies while strengthening ASEAN-led mechanisms.

“Strengthen ASEAN unity, solidarity and centrality by promoting lasting peace, security and stability, sustainable development and inclusive economic growth, shared prosperity and social progress in the region.

“Emphasise the importance of mutual trust and confidence, enhanced dialogue and cooperation in inter-state relations, and a multilateral approach in addressing emerging challenges; actively contribute to constructive efforts in shaping a more effective multilateral architecture that is capable of tackling pressing common regional and global issues; support for a rules-based regional and international order, anchored in international law.

“Strengthen mutual support and collaboration among ASEAN Member States, where people think and act as a community, the spirit of “unity in diversity” is respected and the principles of equal partnership, mutual respect and mutual benefit are observed.

“Adhere to ASEAN’s fundamental principles, shared values and norms, as stipulated in the ASEAN Charter and the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, upholding international law, and the settlement of disputes through peaceful means, including full respect for legal and diplomatic processes without resorting to threat or use of force, in accordance with universally recognised principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) while continuing to enhance mutual trust and confidence.

“Advance practical defence cooperation among ASEAN Member States and between ASEAN and its external partners under the frameworks of ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) and ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM-Plus) including strengthening the ADMM-Plus as it commemorates its 10th anniversary.

“Continue to strengthen the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) by promoting confidence building measures and preventive diplomacy while enhancing mutual understanding and trust, as well as transparency in the region, and by supporting political-security dialogue and cooperation, so that it remains relevant and responsive in addressing emerging security challenges.

“Intensify maritime cooperation in promoting maritime security, safety and freedom of navigation and over-flight, addressing transnational crime at sea, creating conducive environment for peaceful settlement of disputes, ensuring maritime sustainability, providing humanitarian assistance to persons and vessels in distress at sea, combating Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, promoting maritime connectivity and commerce, strengthening maritime scientific research, in accordance with international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS, the relevant Standards and Recommended Practices of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the relevant instruments and conventions of the International Maritime Organization (IMO). To this end, strengthen coordination and synergy across maritime-related ASEAN mechanisms, including enhancing the role of the ASEAN Maritime Forum (AMF) and the Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum (EAMF).

“Reaffirm the objectives and principles of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP) which provides a guide for ASEAN’s engagement in the Asia-Pacific and the Indian Ocean regions, while encouraging external partners to work with ASEAN in promoting the principles laid out in the AOIP and to undertake cooperation on the four key areas identified in the Outlook to promote mutual trust, mutual respect and mutual benefit through ASEAN-led mechanisms.

“Further reaffirm the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability, safety and freedom of navigation and over-flight above the South China Sea, as well as upholding international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS, in the South China Sea, work actively towards the full and effective implementation of the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in its entirety and the early conclusion of an effective and substantive Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC), consistent with international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS. Further stress on the importance of non-militarisation and self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability, and avoid actions that may further complicate the situation. Pursue the peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with universally recognised principles of international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS, while enhancing mutual trust and confidence.

“Commit to build a highly integrated, cohesive, innovative and resilient ASEAN Economic Community with seamless movement of goods, services, investment, capital, and skilled labour; promote inter-operable payment systems; encourage Member States to increase efforts in finding innovative solutions to boost intra-ASEAN trade and investment, through the progressive reduction or elimination of restrictions, including addressing the trade barrier effects of non-tariff measures amongst others, with a view to reaching the target of doubling intra-ASEAN trade by 2025; sustaining the continued flow of investments into the region; deepen and expand economic cooperation with all partners, with emphasis on ASEAN’s free trade area (FTA) partners, to support economic integration in the region.

“Further strengthen efforts to bridge the digital divide and grow the digital economy by promoting enabling environments, including through the establishment of digital transformation frameworks to facilitate digital trade and enhancement in digital connectivity.

“Reaffirm strong commitment to alleviate the adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our people’s livelihood, societies and economies, through the implementation of a comprehensive recovery plan with a view to improving stability and resilience of the regional economy, preserving supply chain connectivity, while staying vigilant of a second wave of infections.

“Undertake necessary measures for gradual revitalisation of ASEAN’s economic activities to implement facilitative measures and to expedite recovery of the ASEAN economies.

“Strengthen resilience of the ASEAN economies to make them sustainable and less vulnerable to future shocks; stabilising manufacturing, promoting complementarities in the regional supply chain through technology exchange, and ensuring food security and energy security.

“Duly address disruptions in trade links, promote and support regional and global supply chain connectivity and ensure unimpeded flow of essential goods including medicine, medical supplies and devices and other critical goods and services in supply chains through increased transparency and refraining from imposing unnecessary non-tariff measures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Encourage the maintenance of necessary interconnectedness in the region by facilitating to the extent possible the essential movement of people, including business travels, while ensuring the safeguarding of public health in line with our efforts to combat the pandemic.

“Cushion shocks, particularly to vulnerable economic sectors and businesses, including the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), startups and enterprises in the informal economy, shoring up business viability through tax relief, credit and corporate support; promote business opportunities and facilitating the possible shifting of production business models.

“Tackle the socio-economic consequences of COVID-19, including continued access to education, support workers in the sectors affected, address employment and unemployment issues during the time of unprecedented crisis, upskill and reskill existing workforce, and promote social protection while promoting demand-led employment strategy.

“Continue to promote and accelerate trade facilitation efforts including addressing non-tariff measures, building upon existing trade facilitating platforms in ASEAN, streamlining of processes, implementation of programmes or policies to support manufacturers, exporters, importers, traders, and suppliers.

“Promote efforts involving stakeholders’ participation to boost the image of ASEAN as a trusted trade and investment hub and an attractive tourism destination.

“Dedicate utmost efforts to conclude a modern, comprehensive, high quality, and mutually beneficial Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement and its signing in 2020; demonstrating the firm commitment of ASEAN and its partners to upholding an open, inclusive and rules-based multi-lateral trading system.

“Continue to promote sustainable development cooperation by promoting complementarities between the ASEAN Community Vision 2025, which was adopted in the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on ASEAN 2025, and the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (Complementarities Initiative), including through the effective realisation of the Complementarities Roadmap, at a time of significance to both ASEAN and the United Nations as the year 2020 marks the fifth anniversary of the establishment of the ASEAN Community, and the fifth year of implementation of the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 and adoption of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“Underline the importance of narrowing the development gap within ASEAN through effective implementation of the IAI Work Plan III and successor documents, and the development of links with other regional initiatives, including through promoting rural development and poverty eradication, with a view to ensuring sustainable and inclusive growth of the ASEAN Community.

“Further promote equitable development across the ASEAN Community by aligning sub-regional growth, including the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA), the Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle (IMT-GT), and the Singapore-Johor-Riau (SIJORI) Growth Triangle with the comprehensive development of ASEAN.

“Enhance effective implementation of the MPAC 2025 and synergise MPAC 2025 with various key connectivity strategies and initiatives, including through the Connecting the Connectivities approach, within and beyond ASEAN, towards achieving a seamlessly and comprehensively connected and integrated ASEAN.

“Continue to promote a sense of belonging in the ASEAN Community and foster ASEAN identity among its peoples, including through increasing awareness of ASEAN’s cultural heritage and shared values; the understanding of ASEAN’s relevance through promoting cultural and people-to-people exchanges; enhancing ASEAN’s visibility through, among others, tasking our officials to continue studying the proposal to promote the display of the ASEAN Flag in ASEAN Member States and the use of the ASEAN Anthem at ASEAN’s official functions; and the implementation of ASEAN Lanes at international airports of ASEAN Member States.”