It is the “unity in diversity” that forms the common identity of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said ASEAN Secretary General Le Luong Minh in an interview with Vietnam News Agency correspondents in Jakarta, Indonesia.
According to the Secretary General, ASEAN is regarded as one of the most successful regional organisations in terms of integration.
The unique integration method that suits the region’s diverse cultures, religions, history and political systems has created the strength for the ten-member group, he said.
The ASEAN chief noted that the association has turned this diversity into an advantage in the process of community building as well as integration.
The bloc has maintained solidarity and unity through joint commitments and collective responsibility for peace, stability and prosperity based on the principles of respecting independence, sovereignty, not intervening in other countries’ internal affairs and helping each other to overcome difficulties without impositions.
Secretary General Minh said the bloc’s decisions are made on the basis of consensus reached by all member countries in order to make sure that no member is left out of issues of shared interests.
He suggested that member countries should consider ASEAN when building national policies, programmes, projects and promotion strategies while promoting their diverse cultures.
The nations were also urged to use culture as a tool to build a harmonious and progressive society.
Minh stressed that the ASEAN Community, scheduled to take shape on December 31 this year, will guarantee a peaceful and stable environment for citizens of its member countries, and help deepen regional cooperation in all areas, including politics, security, economy, culture and social affairs.
The ASEAN Community will serve as a trust-worthy forum for cooperation dialogues in order to maintain peace, stability and security in Southeast Asia in particular and Asia-Pacific in general, thus contributing to global peace and security.
With total GDP exceeding US$2.5 trillion, ASEAN is expected to become the world’s seven largest economy and third largest market.
ASEAN is the only economy that has free trade agreements with all major economies across the world, the Secretary General said, adding that the bloc will complete the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement at an early date.
A number of ASEAN countries have joined the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, while many others have signed free trade agreements with important economic partners.
ASEAN has favourable conditions to join the global economic value chain, he emphasised.
With its collective strength in politics, security and economy, ASEAN’s role and influence on regional and global matters will continue to grow, the ASEAN chief added.