Vietnam welcomes ASEAN chair status

Vietnam will receive the ASEAN chairmanship for 2020 from Thailand in early November. With this new responsibility, the country is aiming to further its contributions to regional peace and sustainability with a people-centred approach.

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Over the past years, Southeast Asian investment into Vietnam has contributed to improving national development (Photo: Le Toan)

Vietnam will officially undertake its role as ASEAN chair on January 1, 2020, but will recive the position in early November, the third time it has held the responsibility after 1998 and 2010.

“Acting as ASEAN chair will be the responsibility and the benefit of the Vietnamese country and its people,” stated Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh at a recent meeting of the 2020 ASEAN National Committee.

According to DPM Minh, over past decades the ASEAN has been growing from strength to strength, but it has not all been plain sailing.

What is most important is that the ASEAN needs to ensure its great solidarity and maintain its central role in overcoming all challenges and effectively responding to all rapid changes and complexities of the international situation.

Major contributions

On the sidelines of Japanese Emperor Naruhito’s coronation ceremony last week, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc had bilateral meetings with leaders of Czech Republic, Bulgaria, and Albania. They wished to strengthen co-operation with Vietnam in international and regional forums, particularly when Vietnam will undertake the role as ASEAN chair in 2020 and non-permanent member of the United Nation Security Council (UNSC) for the 2020-2021 tenure.

PM Phuc stated that Vietnam attached special importance to the new roles, and has been making great preparations for them. In the role of ASEAN chair, the country stands ready to be the effective bridge to connect the ASEAN with countries such as the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, and Albania.

According to Tran Viet Thai, deputy director general of the Institute for Foreign Policy and Strategic Studies under the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam, in 24 years of being an ASEAN member, Vietnam has continuously contributed to the unity of the region, and the job has been highly appreciated by the international community.

“Interaction among ASEAN countries and their people has been increasing,” Thai said. “It’s clear that ASEAN has become more stable with closer relations among people. And it’s also the commitment of Vietnam to the future of the ASEAN, particularly in the role of ASEAN chair.”

Over the past quarter of a century, the country has headed numerous initiatives to help develop the ASEAN into a stronger bloc.

For example, at the 33rd ASEAN Summit and related meetings in Singapore last November, PM Phuc reiterated Vietnam’s initiatives on a regional digital platform, a cross-ASEAN mobile network, and establishing the ASEAN Technology University and a regional disaster alert system.

The Vietnamese prime minister also regarded the small- and medium-sized enterprise community as “the backbone of the ASEAN economy,” and recommended establishing a talent incubator, saying that a startup atmosphere is truly permeating the region as “The ASEAN is known as the cradle of many new and innovative ideas from around the world.”

As part of its boosting of regional integration, Vietnam has also created good opportunities for regional enterprises, with those from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand operating well in Vietnam.

Statistics from the Ministry of Planning and Investment showed that as of September 20, the total investment from ASEAN member states in Vietnam hit about $74.12 billion, with Singapore’s total at $49.9 billion, followed by Malaysia ($12.6 billion), Thailand ($10.8 billion), Indonesia ($579 million), and the Philippines ($276 million).

What to do?

Emphasising the ASEAN’s orientation of people at its centre, Thai from the IFPSS said that Vietnam’s priorities in 2020 as ASEAN chair will aim to building a community for people, serving them with the increasing participation of ethnic minority groups, women, and children.

“In its ASEAN 2020 chairmanship, Vietnam will pay more attention to issues of workforce, jobs, and social security, to support these groups, so that they can better benefit from the ASEAN community, so that the bloc is closer and closer to people wherever they are,” he said.

Pham Quang Vinh, former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs recently told VIR that the ASEAN has maintained a peaceful and stable environment favourable for economic development and connectivity, as well as community building.

“In the midst of uncertain and changing regional dynamics, US-China strategic competition, the territorial and maritime disputes in the East Sea, and growing non-traditional security concerns, internal and external issues may distort ASEAN cohesiveness and undermine its centrality,” Vinh said. “With that background, Vietnam’s priorities will be based on the ASEAN’s three pillars of politics, economy, and culture and society. The ASEAN has a route map for this, so Vietnam will continue with the things the blocs has not yet finished.”

Supporting Vietnam’s new role in the ASEAN, Indonesia’s Former Minister of Foreign Affairs Marty Netalegawa said that it is “extremely encouraging to see Vietnam taking the chairmanship of the ASEAN. In late 2018, Vietnam established an ASEAN committee and now the country has been actively building plans,” he said.

According to Netalegawa, the activity of Vietnam has shown that for the country, the issue of being ASEAN chair is not only a technical issue of organisation but also one about policy. “Seeing what Vietnam is doing gives me a great deal of encouragement and hope that the ASEAN will benefit fully from the country’s new position.”

The year 2020 will mark the 50th anniversary of the ASEAN Community, and is the period being set aside to launch action programmes with the bloc’s partners. Besides that, Vietnam will also celebrate 25 years of ASEAN membership. Undertaking ASEAN chair on the occasion will help Vietnam affirm its position and role to the region, contributing to actualising the ASEAN’s goal of being a community for people.

According to Article 31 of the ASEAN Charter, the chair role of the ASEAN rotates annually, based on the alphabetical order of the English names of member states.

To prepare for the role in 2020, Vietnam established the ASEAN National Committee in December 2018 chaired by DPM Minh. The three vice chairmen are Minister, Chairman of the Government Office Mai Tien Dung, Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh, and Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs Dao Ngoc Dung, along with 25 other leaders of relevant ministries and agencies.

At the committee’s fourth meeting session held two weeks ago, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Nguyen Quoc Dung stated that careful preparations for Vietnam’s new task have been made. The committee also approved the logo and identifier of ASEAN Chairmanship 2020 which will be officially introduced at the 35th ASEAN Summit 2019 and related meetings in Thailand during October 31-November 4.