Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Truong Hoa Binh highlighted the necessity to enhance Asean identity and community awareness at a discussion on Asean during the 50th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum 2020 in Davos, Switzerland.
Binh joined other Asean leaders and experts to discuss how the region can capitalise on potential from the forecast that half of the world’s best-performing emerging economies are located in the Asean region.
Southeast Asia is predicted to play a big role in the dynamic development of Asia. However, changing demographics, rising inequality and economic tensions are jeopardising the momentum.
As Asean chair this year, Deputy Prime Minister Binh said Vietnam was one of the countries with the highest growth in the world, and a major contributor to the development of Asean. “Making Asean stronger is a priority in Vietnam’s foreign policy,” the Vietnamese official stressed.
Responding to a question on what Vietnam would do as Asean chair to enhance trade facilitation among Asean member states, Binh said: “We need to have transparent and open policies and legal institutions by creating an equal playground for businesses and people within Asean.”
“Vietnam also needs to have open and comfortable administrative procedures as well as attract resources within the country and open the door to external partners to conduct business activities,” he said.
Responding to questions over the scepticism of Asean’s role, Airlangga Hartarto, Co-ordinating Minister for Economic Affairs from Indonesia, said one of the things that keeps Asean one of the two strongest regional organisations like today is that it defends multilateralism and liberalisation of trade and investment.
Asean has proved that its way of upholding harmony and consensus is appropriate given how the regional bloc has maintained the fastest growth in the world even during and after the two global economic crises, the economic minister said.
To make the “Asean project” feel more of a people-driven initiative rather than mere Government’s efforts, the speakers agreed that there is a need to promote Asean’s identity, promote people-to-people exchanges – including the enabling of easier travelling and providing more student exchange opportunities, and promote the digital economy, which can easily connect people across countries and help push intra-regional trade.
Helianti Hilman, chairperson for the Indonesia-based artisanal food company Javara, said that within Asean, even though the producers and companies might be making the same products competing for the same exporting markets, social innovators and women entrepreneurship from Asean countries could still – and have been doing so – support and complement each other, through common denominators such as sharing a mission to tackle poverty and malnutrition, which is still an issue in many parts of Southeast Asia.
VIET NAM NEWS/ASIA NEWS NETWORK