ASEAN Deputy Secretary General AKP Mochtan speaks about what to expect from the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) with reporters from the Asia News Network, of which Viet Nam News is a founding member.
What's your opinion about members of AEC participating in major trade agreement negotiations such as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP)?
If one country or more in ASEAN felt that they were ready and able to join the TPP, ASEAN will not tell them that they shouldn't. The decision is entirely up to that country to make. For us, it is not an either-or decision. It's not like, if you chose to be a part of TPP then you cannot be a part of the AEC.
On the topic of economic integration, how is the ASEAN organisation going to support countries' businesses ease into the transition and overcome differences?
The key to the AEC is the harmonisation of trade. That means the same administrative procedures and customs regulations are going to be applied to all member countries. That's to say, we aim to create a leveled playing field for all.
However, business and industry leaders will have to seize the opportunities themselves. For example, an associate of mine runs a company that produces hospital equipment. His traditional market is Indonesia and his products are very complicated to produce.
The question here is, is he ready to tap into other ASEAN markets? These are questions he should be asking: is his company's website in English? Can his receptionists speak English and communicate with clients from other countries? Did he go to Viet Nam or Laos to study the markets there? He has not done any of those.
What I am trying to say is, governments can facilitate trade among our member countries but the entrepreneurs themselves must be ready to seize opportunities. Instead of having access to a market of 250 million in Indonesia, businesses will have a much larger market. It is important that they possess the right mindset to make use of this opportunity.
The challenge here is find ways to support Small to Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs). We must be able to encourage them to join the playing field that we created.
What's ASEAN Secretariat's view on the issue of overlapping claims among its member countries and China in the South China Sea (East Sea)? What has been done in attempt to settle the disputes?
When it comes to the South China Sea (East Sea), first it's a matter of the region's security and stability. Secondly, it concerns ASEAN member countries' and China. ASEAN's view on the matter is that disputes should be resolved on a bilateral basis, between ASEAN member countries' overlapping claims and between ASEAN countries and China.
However, as it is a matter of regional security and stability, it became ASEAN's responsibility as a bloc. That's why we have the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties (DOC) and we are working towards a Code of Conduct for the East Sea.
Recent developments by China are perceived as provocative and that's why ASEAN voiced its concerns and attempted to settle disputes regarding the overlapping claims with UNCLOS and international law.
There are numerous forums for dialogues and mechanisms are in place for all parties to maintain communication, such as ASEAN+1 (with China), East Asian Summit, ASEAN regional forums and Defence minister meetings.
The issue is the gap between diplomatic efforts and actions being taken on the ground by China; that's why ASEAN had to voice its concern. ASEAN will continue to engage in dialogues with China to settle the matter. — VNS