Interview: Le Luong Minh
Where can the EU and the US offer more support?
LE LUONG MINH: Significant progress has been made in ASEAN-US Dialogue Relations, particularly with the elevation of our alliance to a strategic partnership in November 2015 and the successful convening of the ASEAN-US special leaders’ summit in California in 2016. Besides these milestones, good progress has also been made in the implementation of the ASEAN-US Plan of Action 2016-20. ASEAN appreciates the continued support of the US to ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) building across all three pillars and through ASEAN-led mechanisms – such as the East Asia Summit, the ASEAN Regional Forum, the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus and the Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum – in promoting regional stability, peace, security and prosperity. ASEAN and the US will celebrate the 40th anniversary of ASEAN-US Dialogue Relations in 2017.
Emphasis has been placed by the leaders from both sides on strengthening the dialogue relations at the strategic level and on stepping up cooperation in several aspects including: i) promoting ASEAN centrality and rules-based order and in the regional architecture; ii) combatting non-traditional security challenges such as non-proliferation, terrorism, violent extremism, drug trafficking, maritime security, illegal fishing, cybercrime, human trafficking, irregular migration and climate change; iii) advancing economic cooperation through the ASEAN-US Connect and the ASEAN Connectivity through Trade and Investment Programme; and furthering ASEAN connectivity through trade and investment; iv) nurturing leadership and capacity building in youth and women through on-going programmes such as the Youth Southeast Asian Leaders’ Initiative and the ASEAN-US Progress Programme; and v) continuing support for AEC building and integration efforts through the implementation of the MPAC 2025 and IAI Work Plan III. The adoption in 2007 of the Nuremberg Declaration on an EU-ASEAN Enhanced Partnership was an important milestone in ASEAN-EU dialogue relations, which have since grown and were further strengthened in 2012 with the adoption of the Bandar Seri Begawan plan of action.
In 2017 there will also be another important milestone, as ASEAN and the EU will celebrate the 40th anniversary of ASEAN-EU dialogue relations. Additionally, at the 21st ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting in Bangkok in October 2016, ministers from both sides highlighted the need to: i) accelerate efforts towards a strategic partnership between and beyond ASEAN and the EU by strengthening trade, connectivity, energy, research and development cooperation; ii) enhance strategic connectivity between ASEAN and the EU through more effective land, sea and air links; iii) promote economic partnership and trade and investment in both regions; and reaffirm the commitment to the region-to-region ASEAN-EU Free Trade Agreement; iv) strengthening people-to-people contacts; v) promote cooperation on education, and encourage the mobility of students and academics between ASEAN and EU education institutions.
How can firms make full use of the AEC?
MINH: A notable addition to the AEC 2025 Blueprint is the inclusion of a section on strengthening the role of the private sector. Going forward, businesses will be encouraged to provide feedback and comments on AEC initiatives as well as more structured participation in ASEAN’s work, for the most part through coordination with the ASEAN Business Advisory Council. Additionally, a related aspect being looked into is improving outreach to businesses on the various commitments, initiatives and facilities that are targeted to benefit economic sectors. Often, businesses are less aware of developments in the AEC. More efforts are needed at both national and regional levels, and direct online facilities for firms are available.
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