WASHINGTON (VNS)— The developing partnership between the United States and Southeast Asia was at the forefront of discussions in Washington last week at the 26th ASEAN-US Dialogue.
Speakers at the event, which was attended by Vietnamese Deputy Foreign Minister Pham Quang Vinh, praised the positive progress achieved in relations between the partners and reported that great strides had been made in the fields of security, trade, investment, culture, education and science and technology.
The successes have followed the implementation of a series of programmes, including the 2011-2015 ASEAN-US Plan of Action and the 2012 ASEAN-US Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA).
The US is now the third largest investor in ASEAN and the fourth biggest trading partner of the bloc, with two-way trade turnover totalling more than US$198 billion.
The two sides emphasised the strategic significance of their partnership in attempts to ensure peace, security and prosperity in the Southeast Asian region, and a preliminary discussion was held about upgrading the relationship to the level of a strategic partnership.
They also discussed the goal of establishing an ASEAN community by 2015, offering enhanced connectivity, human resource development and educational exchanges. Important work will also be undertaken to tackle common challenges such as energy security, sustainable water resource management, biodiversity, climate change, natural disasters, epidemics and trans-national crime.
US representatives declared that President Barack Obama's administration will continue strengthening links with the Asia-Pacific in general and ASEAN in particular as they consider the bloc to be a major pillar of the region.
They committed to providing $16 million over five years towards the ASEAN Connectivity through Trade and Investment (ACTI) programme, and $13 million to the ASEAN-US Partnership for Good Governance, Equitable and Sustainable Development and Security programme (PROGRESS).
During the meeting, the two sides also underlined the need to maintain stability in the East Sea and solve all disputes in a peaceful manner based on respect for international law and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
They suggested the bloc and China conduct negotiations as soon as possible to establish an East Sea Code of Conduct (COC) in order to consolidate trust and ensure regional peace.
In his speech at the meeting, Deputy FM Vinh sounded his appreciation for the continued co-operation between the US and ASEAN and stressed that they must continue working together in the priority areas of economics, trade, investment, connectivity, science and technology and education.
Also last week, the new Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta and held talks with the bloc's Secretary General Le Luong Minh.
During the meeting, the two exchanged views on a number of issues of mutual interest, including ways and means to further strengthen the ASEAN-China Strategic Partnership.
ASEAN and China had vastly expanded their co-operation over the past 10 years, Minh said.
He recommended that the two sides further strengthen collaboration in a number of areas, including maritime co-operation, combating trans-national crime, energy security and the implementation of the ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA).
For his part, Wang Yi reaffirmed that the new leadership of China treasures its relationship with ASEAN and strongly supports ASEAN's central role in East Asian building and integration.
According to Wang, China will focus its efforts on supporting the implementation of the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
The two sides also exchanged views on the East Sea issue and stressed the importance of ensuring full and effective implementation of the Declaration of the Conduct of Parties (DOC) in the East Sea, moving towards the conclusion of a Code of Conduct (COC) in the East Sea .
They reaffirmed the significance of maintaining peace and stability in the East Sea as well as in the region.
Wang Yi ended the meeting by inviting his host to pay an official visit to China. — VNS