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VN’s foreign minister stresses importance of ASEM organisation

Update: April, 21/2016 - 09:00
Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Phạm Bình Minh said ASEM had developed into a key platform for policy dialogue and co-operation between Asia and Europe. — Photo VNA

HÀ NỘI Viet Nam News -— The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday hosted a conference on “Enhancing the comprehensive Asia-Europe Partnership in the 21st century” in Hà Nội to review two decades of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) and make proposals for the group’s plans in the third decade. 

The proposals are to be submitted to the upcoming 11th ASEM Summit in Mongolia this July. 

Addressing the event, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Phạm Bình Minh said ASEM had developed into a key platform for policy dialogue and co-operation between Asia and Europe. 

The deputy PM noted that entering the second decade of the 21st century, the need had arisen for ASEM to elevate its co-operation and strengthen its role in the world in the context of deep changes in today’s global and regional settings. Amidst the trends of multi-polarisation and democratisation, partnerships and new-generation free trade agreements (FTAs) in the two continents are growing in both number and complexity alongside global challenges. 

It was beyond the capacity of any single nation to address those issues, Deputy PM Minh said, stressing that it was vital for ASEM to stay relevant by expanding connectivity and driving for development that fosters deeper, more comprehensive and multi-faceted collaboration. 

Minh asked participants to discuss ways to improve the effectiveness of ASEM in line with the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change. 

He suggested that policy dialogue should focus on addressing challenges at both global and continental levels, particularly security threats. 

Speaking of economics and development, he urged the participants to push for economic restructuring and reforms, regional connectivity and the growth of creative economies to promote sustainable development. 

Sustainable social welfare systems were also needed with the emphasis on vulnerable people like children, women, people with disabilities and the elderly, he added. 

All initiatives and co-operation mechanism should be people-centred with the increasing participation of people, especially the youth and small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the official said. 

Deputy PM Minh also hailed the significance of ASEM forum to Việt Nam, as the mechanism’s membership includes 19 out of 25 strategic and comprehensive partners of Việt Nam. ASEM member states are also the source of 70 per cent of foreign direct investment in Việt Nam, 70 per cent of foreign trade and 80 per cent of international tourist arrivals. 

Fourteen out of 16 FTAs Việt Nam had signed or is negotiating are with ASEM partners, he noted. 

He pledged that Việt Nam would work together with other member states to upgrade the Asia-Europe partnership. 

During the conference, representatives from ministries, state agencies and businesses made recommendations on ways to liven up economic co-operation towards sustainable development and enhance the pragmatism of political dialogue. 

They also shared experience in joining ASEM co-operation and proposed ways for Việt Nam to take a bigger role in ASEM in the next decade.

Participants’ opinions

Speaking at the conference, Ambassador of Thailand to Việt Nam Manopchai Vongphakdi stressed the importance of expanding the co-operation scale between the two continents with greater connectivity.

It should be the key focal point of the future agenda, he said, adding that the connectivity should be detailed by regulations, frameworks and institutions in ASEM.

He said that ASEM should develop to ensure welfare, education and health to better serve people’s lives.

The ambassador noted that ASEM needed to become an effective forum to support the people and improve the co-ordination of projects and programmes.

In addition, the acting director of the Diplomatic Academy of Việt Nam, Nguyễn Vũ Tùng, said it was important to see the role of ASEM in people’s lives.

He said that so far, big countries still dominated international relations. The strategic competition between big countries still persists, making the situation more complicated, he said.

“As a result, ASEM needs to have a clear voice and stance with particular issues of peace, security and order,” he said.

"Otherwise, the members and the people will pose questions about the suitability of ASEM," he added.

Tùng questioned how to help the next generation become aware of ASEM’s importance.

The issue was also raised by the Italian ambassador to Việt Nam, Cecilia Piccioni, who said the forum should be more people-friendly.

She said that it was important to make people understand how discussions would positively impact their lives. — VNS

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