Interview: Le Luong Minh
What is the ASEAN Secretariat’s role in ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) integration?
LE LUONG MINH: It is the role of the ASEAN Secretariat, led by the secretary-general of ASEAN, to facilitate and monitor the progress in the implementation of ASEAN agreements and decisions. In the AEC, the ASEAN Secretariat, through the ASEAN Integration Monitoring Office, provides core support to monitor and track the implementation of ASEAN agreements and decisions, as well as the compliance with the commitments under the AEC Blueprint. Monitoring efforts are also complemented at the sectoral and national levels. Post-2015, ASEAN will aim to put in place an enhanced monitoring framework that goes beyond the current compliance monitoring. This will strengthen the outcomes and the impact evaluation of the AEC Blueprint 2025. Underscoring the importance of stakeholder awareness and active engagement to the success of the AEC, the ASEAN Secretariat will assist member states in systematically disseminating information to the public on the implementation of the various measures under the AEC.
How can ASEAN address issues such as the Rohingya crisis and the South China Sea dispute?
MINH: ASEAN has always emphasised dialogue and cooperation in addressing issues affecting the region, including Rohingya and the South China Sea dispute. In July 2015, an emergency meeting was convened to discuss ASEAN’s levels of support for emergency humanitarian and relief efforts regarding the irregular movement of persons in South-east Asia. The meeting took the decision to establish a trust fund to support humanitarian and relief efforts.
It is ASEAN’s long-standing position that the territorial disputes in the South China Sea must be settled by peaceful means and in accordance with international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. There is a widening gap between the diplomatic track and the reality at sea, where massive reclamation and construction activities are taking place, changing the status quo and going counter to the spirit of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, known as the DOC.
In view of this gap, there is an even greater and more urgent need for full and effective implementation of the DOC, which should be pursued in more concrete and operational terms, such as developing “dos and don’ts” lists to promote actions that conform to the DOC and prevent acts that violate it. At the same time, incidents taking place have made it more urgent for early conclusion of a legally binding code of conduct, which should be capable of not only preventing but also managing such incidents.
How will forthcoming free trade agreements (FTAs) affect ASEAN trade and investment?
MINH: There has been a proliferation of bilateral and regional FTAs in the Asia-Pacific region. Among them are two major regional ones in which ASEAN member states are participating: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
The TPP is a significant agreement, recently concluded by 12 countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region, including four ASEAN member states ( Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam). The RCEP is envisaged as a modern, comprehensive, high-quality and mutually beneficial economic partnership agreement that would support ASEAN community achievement and deeper economic integration in the Asia-Pacific region.
Both of these agreements, by virtue of their broad memberships, will provide opportunities to harmonise rules and regulations across economies, which will likely result in decreasing costs for doing business across borders. They can also serve as building blocks in support of the global multilateral trading system.
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