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In response to a VIR query on the sidelines of the second ASEAN Dialogue recently held in Hanoi, Sihasak Puangketkaew, former Permanent Secretary of Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that though Southeast Asia is facing a lot of complex tasks, he remains confident in the ability of Vietnam to lead the region in a very crucial moment to new highs.
“While the global economy is mired in stagnancy, we have the trade war between the United States and China, and it is continuing to have negative impacts on regional economies. Another emerging issue challenging the ASEAN is rising protectionism,” Puangketkaew said.
He also pointed out impacts of the disruptive technology era on ASEAN economies, as well as carrying out the ASEAN 2025 vision, would require Vietnam to do much in 2020. “The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is one of the ASEAN’s goals related to international integration. Without India, its impact will be not like we desired. But we hope that under Vietnam’s chairmanship, the agreement will be signed with involvement of India,” he said.
According to Puangketkaew, balancing the interests of each country and the region as a whole is not simple. “That’s why I highly appreciate Vietnam’s theme of ‘Cohesive and Responsive’ for the ASEAN in 2020. These two elements are an important basis to develop initiatives promoting cohesiveness among the bloc’s members in the context of a changeable external environment.”
As the person directly contributing to Vietnam’s successful ASEAN chairmanship in 2010, Pham Quang Vinh, former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and head of the ASEAN Senior Officials’ Meeting, said that Vietnam would bring the experience of twice taking up the role of ASEAN chair and holding big international events along with experiences learned from Thailand and other member states to fulfil its duties.
“Being ASEAN chair in 2020 will be one of Vietnam’s most important multilateral events. This is the year when progress and achievements of five years into implementation of ASEAN Community Vision 2025 will be evaluated, based on which decision on the next steps for realising the vision will be implemented,” he said. “Besides this, in 2020, Vietnam will also be a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. The dual role will enable the country to illustrate its standing and prestige, as well as capacity in the international arena. It will also represent the whole ASEAN Community at the UN.”
According to Vinh, the ASEAN and the UN have many similar goals, of which the biggest one is peace and sustainable development towards 2030.
Previously, speaking at the international press conference on Vietnam’s ASEAN chairmanship in 2020, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Nguyen Quoc Dung emphasised that the ASEAN chair role is a great responsibility which will bring a lot of opportunities.
“Vietnam will give its utmost determination and priority to carry out this important task successfully and contribute to building an increasingly close and strong ASEAN community on the basis of inheriting the achieved results of former ASEAN presidents,” Dung said.
When Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc addressed the ceremony to transfer the role of ASEAN chair in Thailand in November 2019, he reaffirmed that Vietnam identifies the ASEAN as a top priority and a cornerstone in multilateral diplomacy. “Vietnam is ready to assume the role of ASEAN chair in 2020, a pivotal year in realising the bloc’s Vision Plan and also the 25th anniversary of Vietnam’s accession to the ASEAN,” he said.
The country’s actions
Becoming the chair of the ASEAN, the world’s fifth-largest economy with GDP of $3 trillion, Vietnam has determined free trade and multilateral trade as one of the key solutions to promote the region’s economic development.
“We want to send a message to the business community that we’ll do our best to protect free trade and free flows of trade investment,” Tran Tuan Anh, Minister of Industry and Trade said at a recent press conference.
According to Minister Anh, Vietnam has been working closely with other countries in the bloc to maintain the leading role of the ASEAN in negotiations for the RCEP to ensure the interests of its countries.
“We will find out solutions, along with harmonising the parties’ benefits,” he said.
He also informed that in 2020, his ministry will focus on four priorities based on the three pillars of the ASEAN Economic Community.
“Vietnam will promote economic integration through continuous implementation of the ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint 2025 and free trade agreements such as RCEP. Second, we will promote regional economic connectivity, improve adaptability, and take advantage of the opportunities of Industry 4.0. Third, the country will promote the ASEAN economy in a dynamic, innovative, effective, and adaptive way. Finally, it will promote trade facilitation in the bloc by fulfilment of the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement,” the minister stated.
As ASEAN chair in 2020, Vietnam plans to co-ordinate and organise about 300 different conferences and activities, including the two most important summits in April and November.
“The preparation for content, reception, logistics, communications, culture, and security has been completed. Vietnam is ready for the ASEAN chair role, starting with the first event of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in January,” Deputy Minister Dung said.
Meanwhile, sharing with VIR his hopes for Vietnam’s special status, Puangketkaew from Thailand said, “We have high expectations of the chairmanship from Vietnam to make the ASEAN proactive in adapting new conditions. We also want to work together with Vietnam to ensure its successful chairmanship in this coming year.”
Nguyen Thi Phuong - Deputy general director Central Retail
Central Retail operates in four Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia, with Vietnam our highest growth market. In 2020 we will continue to follow the goal of sustainable development, contributing to Vietnam’s prosperity and a better quality of life for its people.
Over the years, we have actively promoted Vietnam’s tourism and goods to the Thai market, and we are planning to expand this activity to Indonesia and Malaysia.
Vietnam’s role as 2020 ASEAN chair is a good opportunity for enterprises and retailers throughout the bloc, as the country has pledged to promote economic integration, encourage regional economic connectivity, and facilitate intra-ASEAN trade. Therefore, the potential for us is huge, as more goods from other member states will provide a diversified choice for consumers.
In addition to this, Vietnam will also welcome international delegations, with the hope that improving the country’s image will attract more investment into different industries.
Of course, as a retailer, Central Retail will also benefit from Vietnam’s new position of responsibility.
Tran Ba Duong - CEO, THACO
In 2019, THACO exported vehicles to various ASEAN markets like the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, and Cambodia, and also semi-trailers to the United States. In 2020, we aim to export over 1,000 vehicles, reducing the local automobile industry’s trade deficit by 20-25 per cent compared to 2019. This figure is very important for the industry in general, and THACO in particular, in the context of fair and healthy integration and competition across the region.
Regarding agriculture investment here, in 2019 our investment activities in Hoang Anh Gia Lai started to improve, with a turnover of more than $100 million. Over the next 12 months we also plan to export fruit with a turnover of about $1 billion.
For both agriculture and automobile manufacturing, the ASEAN bloc is THACO’s biggest market.
We believe that Vietnam’s ASEAN chairmanship over the next year will create more opportunities for us as a company, through the promotion of intra-regional trade, as well as the opening of free trade with the Indo-Pacific region.
Patrick Chung - General manager Lee & Man Paper Manufacturing Ltd.
Vietnam taking over as ASEAN chair represents a fantastic opportunity for the country to promote its status to other member states.
Vietnam has made huge progress in the last few years and gained trust from the international community, and has the abilities and skills to hold big global events.
I believe Vietnam will perform well in the role, and provide a platform for foreign companies like ours to promote our business and reach other markets in the region. Business delegations from other ASEAN countries will come to Vietnam, providing a chance for both Vietnamese and foreign enterprises to think about their operating plans in the context of regional and international integration.
However, in the role of ASEAN chair, Vietnam should be more open to promoting exports, supporting industries, and releasing policies facilitating human resources development.