Tran Viet Thai, deputy director of the Institute for Foreign Policy and Strategic Studies, under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, spoke to the newspaper Lao dong (Labour) about the birth of the ASEAN community.
What are benefits the ASEAN Community will enjoy from the recently signed Kuala Lumpur Declaration on the establishment of the ASEAN Community?
The Kuala Lumpur Declaration is a new and positive development for the ASEAN Association.
The establishment of the ASEAN Community will create more opportunities, establish new social norms and common laws among the 10 member nations. These changes will offer many benefits to their citizens. For example, common administrative procedures will be used in all 10 countries, including driving licences or mutual recognition of diplomas or education certificates awarded by the 10 member states and others.
However, to turn these procedures into reality it will take time.
What do you think about ASEAN's position in the world following the creation of the ASEAN Community?
No doubt, ASEAN's position in the world will be raised to a higher level, particularly in the eyes of the major powers, particularly those in the Asia – Pacific region like China, the USA and Japan. The formation of the ASEAN Community will open up new institutional rules and regulations to get leaders from big nations to sit down to discuss disputes or to discuss ways to avert a war from happening or the use of force in disputes.
International relations in Asia-Pacific are complicated, so all regional countries must work together to find measures to settle them in the interest of all nations.
The 10 ASEAN nations are pro-active in creating an environment of peace and stability within the region.
Development levels among ASEAN members are quite different. Do you think the differences will become a hindrance to the ASEAN Community development?
I agree, diversity is a major obstacle in international integration, particularly in financial resources, human resources, development levels and others. That's why during the negotiation process for the establishment of the ASEAN Community, all member states had to make concessions and agreed to a grace period for less developed nations. With high political resolve, all 10 member states shared the desire to build the ASEAN Community.
The Kuala Lumpur Declaration does not mean the process of building the ASEAN Community has come to an end. It will continue for many years to come.
Some people have expressed their anxiety that the Declaration was just a formality. How do you respond to that?
No, I don't have any anxiety for the official establishment of the ASEAN Community. But I had a feeling that ASEAN nations were a bit hasty. At the beginning, the timetable for the establishment of the ASEAN Community was set for 2020.
In the current regional and international context, it is time for ASEAN nations to close ranks. However, the ASEAN Community, following its official establishment, will face two major challenges.
Firstly, the strength of the young ASEAN Community is still weak. For example, since 1991 up to now, internal trade among ASEAN nations is jut around 25 per cent and the other 75 per cent is with other countries.
And secondly, the Southeast Asian region is closely associated to the interests of the world major powers, for example in the East Sea issue. As a result, it requires the ASEAN Community to take appropriate actions to protect their people's interests.
Do you think that the European Union is a good example for the ASEAN Community to learn from?
Yes, the EU is a good example for the ASEAN Community to learn from. But we have our own identity as the history of development in Asia is different than in Europe.
Regarding the monetary issue, I don't think that the ASEAN Community should adopt a single currency. — VNS