In 2013, Vietnam contributed its utmost to ASEAN, as the bloc nears the deadline for establishing an ASEAN community by 2015. Vietnam has played an important role in ensuring progress toward ASEAN’s prioritized targets and the bloc’s decision-making, including declarations on social security, women, children, disease prevention and control, and disaster management.
Boosting regional economic integration
ASEAN’s outstanding achievement in 2013 was great progress in building an ASEAN Economic Community, AEC. 80% of the measures of the AEC building plan have been completed, demonstrating tight economic integration among ASEAN’s members. Vietnam was acknowledged for completing its workload and targets on time, ranking behind Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand. Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh said: “ASEAN has fulfilled 80% of the targets to build a community by 2015 based on the three pillars of politics-security, economics, and culture–society. The last 20% must be completed in 2014 and 2015. Vietnam has completed 84% of its tasks.”
Maintaining internal unity, boosting external relations
In addition to reinforcing the bloc’s internal unity, Vietnam has contributed to ASEAN’s external relations. Vietnam coordinated the ASEAN-EU dialogue in the 2012-2015 term and worked effectively with other countries to manage and enhance ASEAN’s relations with China and other partners in handling East Sea issues and building a Code of Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (COC). Mr. Minh said: “ASEAN countries achieved high consensus on East Sea issues in 2013. It was a successful year for Vietnam in contrast to 2012 when ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting failed to issue a joint-statement. Last year, China agreed to begin consultations with ASEAN countries on building a COC.”
Towards an ASEAN community
Although ASEAN achieved encouraging results last year, the bloc will face a number of challenges in the coming years including limited resources and a strong impact from fierce competition among powerful countries in the region. Its members need to exert a greater effort to reinforce unity in order to achieve the final targets in building an ASEAN community. Vietnam knows that building an ASEAN community will not end on December 31, 2015 – that it’s necessary to have a post-2015 ASEAN development vision. Deputy Foreign Minister, Pham Quang Vinh, said: “Vietnam should work towards a farther target of stronger cohesion in ASEAN. It will benefit Vietnam’s interest. The criteria of an ASEAN community will be raised including the quality of ASEAN cooperation, doubling living standards, and halving the poverty rate. Vietnam is studying possible solutions to these problems.”
Building a strong and united ASEAN is an aspiration of Vietnam and other ASEAN members. 2015 is just a milestone and there are a lot of things to do to achieve real unity and advance the bloc’s status internationally. Vietnam is committed to the process until 2015 and beyond.