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Building on the ASEAN Community

August 8 marked ASEAN’s 55th anniversary of establishment. Minister of Foreign Affairs Bui Thanh Son writes about the journey of ASEAN development and Vietnam’s contributions to the organisation.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, was established on August 8, 1967, marking the start of the process of deepening its integration for peace, stability, and development in Southeast Asia and the region.

Building on the ASEAN Community

Minister of Foreign Affairs Bui Thanh Son.

From a group of Southeast Asian countries divided by war, through 55 years of construction and development, ASEAN is today one of the most important, prestigious, and successful regional organisations in the world.

It has become a shared home for more than 650 million people across all 10 Southeast Asian countries which boast diverse cultural identities, the fifth-largest economic community in the world, and a reliable and important partner of many countries.

ASEAN plays a central role in important processes of dialogues, cooperation, and also linkages throughout the region.

Shared vision and identity

The birth of ASEAN 55 years ago reflected the common aspirations of many countries in the region for peace, stability, friendship, and cooperation for mutual development. Overcoming the ups and downs, and adapting to the changes of the region and the wider world, ASEAN is increasingly developing and perfecting in many aspects.

In 1995, Vietnam’s accession to ASEAN paved the way for the construction of a shared house connecting 10 Southeast Asian countries. In 1997, for the first time, it adopted the ASEAN Vision 2020 on a community which is “cohesive in common identity”, meeting the aspirations of the member states for a Southeast Asian region where “our mountains, rivers, and seas no longer divide us but link us together in friendship, cooperation, and commerce.”

In particular, the formation of the ASEAN Community in 2015 with three pillars – namely, the ASEAN Political-Security Community, the ASEAN Economic Community, and the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community – has raised the process of regional cooperation and linkages to a new height for peace, cooperation and mutual prosperity.

The “ASEAN way”, based on the basic principles of international law, solidarity, consensus, and non-interference in internal affairs, is always preserved, fostered, and promoted, creating values ​​and identity of ASEAN. It is this ASEAN way that has helped the bloc and its member countries overcome the turbulent times of the region and the wider world. At the same time, when overcoming challenges, it becomes more mature, with its spirit of solidarity and unity increasingly enhanced, and the ASEAN identity shines more brightly.

Therefrom, ASEAN has reaffirmed its prestige, position, and central role, with its relations with partners expanded in a more substantive and deeper manner. The bloc has won extensive and effective international support for its own development and connectivity. Up to now, ASEAN has dialogue partnerships with 11 countries and important international organisations. Many views and regulations such as the ASEAN Charter and the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia are welcomed and supported by the international community, thereby promoting cooperation and elevating relations.

Being faithful to its purpose and operating principles, ASEAN has played an important role in promoting dialogues, cooperation, and building trust among countries inside and outside the region in order to maintain peace, stability, and development cooperation in the region.

On the basis of upholding international law, settling disputes and disagreements by peaceful means in accordance with international law and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea adopted in 1982, ASEAN has been making important contributions to preserving the environment of peace and stability in the East Sea, supported by the international community.

Promoting economic integration and connectivity has always been a central content in the ASEAN connectivity process for the past 55 years. To date, intra-regional trade accounts for about 25 per cent of ASEAN’s total trade turnover. The GDP of the whole bloc in 2021 reached $3.36 trillion, an increase of more than 30 per cent compared to 2015 when the ASEAN Community was established.

In addition, ASEAN is also the centre of open economic space with a network of free trade agreements, including the ASEAN Free Trade Area and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership – which creates a free trade area that holds 30 per cent of the world’s population and 32 per cent of global GDP.

After 55 years of construction and development, ASEAN can be proud of being a model of successful regional connectivity. The achievements have served as a solid foundation for it to strive to complete the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 and build the Post-2025 Vision to continue to strengthen a united, resilient, and adaptive community.

ASEAN stays united to unify the will and uphold a sense of community and shared responsibility for the long-term interests of the ASEAN Community, for peace, stability, cooperation, and development in the region. It strengthens itself to maintain the bravery and consolidate the potential and endogenous strength of each member state and the whole ASEAN Community. It also adapts to all circumstances so that it can always be confident, dynamic, innovative, and steady to rise up against the complex changes of the region and the wider world.

The birth of ASEAN 55 years ago reflected the common aspirations of many countries in the region for peace, stability, friendship, and cooperation for mutual development.

A united and strong community

The bloc holds an important position in Vietnam’s foreign policy and international integration. Joining ASEAN in 1995 was a strategic decision of our Party and state, contributing to creating a new situation of international integration and national development, consolidating a peaceful and stable environment, and capitalising on external resources for national construction and protection, as well as enhancing the country’s prestige and status in the international arena. Consistent with the foreign policy of independence, self-reliance, peace, friendship, cooperation and development, multilateralisation, diversification, and respect for ASEAN’s principles, methods, and identity, Vietnam has always been seriously implementing commitments and membership obligations.

The country has been making many important contributions to strengthening solidarity and, in all activities of ASEAN, Vietnam always upholds solidarity and consensus.

The times when Vietnam acted as the ASEAN chair were also when the association faced many challenges. In particular, as the chair of ASEAN 2020, in the face of unprecedented difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Vietnam persisted in ASEAN’s principles, fully demonstrating a cohesive and responsive spirit, driving the ship to overcome turbulence, maintaining the momentum of regional cooperation and connectivity, and at the same time setting the direction for the development of the ASEAN Community in the new period.

Implementing the foreign policy set out at the 13th National Party Congress, Vietnam continues to cooperate with other ASEAN countries to further promote the identity and central role of the bloc, building a united and strong ASEAN Community, and bringing essential benefits to all member states as well as partners outside the region. With the motto of being proactive, positive, sincere, reliable, and responsible, Vietnam continues to do its best together with ASEAN to continue writing successful chapters on building up the entire ASEAN Community.

Bui Thanh Son

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