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Indonesia 2018 | DIPLOMACY | GUEST SPEAKER

TBY talks to Le Luong Minh, Secretary-General of ASEAN, on the association's work to become an economic community, priority sectors, and the secrets to ASEAN's longevity.

Le Luong Minh,
BIOGRAPHY
Le Luong Minh was born on September 1, 1952. Before assuming his post as ASEAN Secretary-General, he was Vietnam’s Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs. The ASEAN Leaders endorsed him as ASEAN Secretary-General for 2013-2017. He had a long career in Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which began in 1975. He studied diplomacy at the University of Foreign Affairs, now the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam, Hanoi, and received his degree in 1974. He then studied linguistics and English literature at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

How are member states progressing in achieving the targets of becoming an economically integrated organization?

During the first year of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), the focus was on putting in place the fundamentals for effective operationalization of the AEC Blueprint 2025 through the adoption of most of the AEC sectoral work plans and the endorsement of the AEC 2025 Monitoring and Evaluation Framework that would support effective implementation of the blueprint. The framework enhances the previous mechanism by not only tracking implementation progress but also the outcomes and impact of regional economic integration. ASEAN has also successfully achieved priority deliverables under the Chairmanship of Laos in the strategic areas of trade facilitation, food safety, MSME development, and tourism. Other notable achievements are the launch of the ASEAN Tariff Finder, a cost-free search engine for tariff-related information under the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement and other ASEAN +1 free trade agreements, as well as the full operationalization of the ASEAN Solutions for Investments, Services and Trade (ASSIST), a fully internet-based and free, non-binding consultative mechanism for the expedited and effective solution of operational problems encountered by ASEAN-based enterprises on cross-border issues related to the implementation of ASEAN economic agreements.

What sectors are being prioritized in the bid to increase cooperation between member states and their trade relationships with the wider region?

In parallel with initiatives of regional economic integration such as liberalization and facilitation of trade in goods, services, and investment, close cooperation in various other sectors has been one of the important factors leading to the successful establishment of the AEC. Entering into the next decade, ASEAN will continue to pursue vigorous sectoral cooperation in all those sectors as set out in the AEC Blueprint 2025. Each sector has already identified the priority deliverables for 2017. In transport, building further on the successful realization of ASEAN Open Skies, ASEAN member states will continue implementation of the ASEAN Single Aviation Market (ASAM) with focus on strengthening air traffic management and aviation safety and security. In ICT, the priorities are placed on expanding broadband to under-served areas, reducing international roaming charges, and strengthening cooperation in cybersecurity. Work has also been started on studying the feasibility of an ASEAN Single Telecommunication Market. In energy, cooperation in 2017 is focused on institutional strengthening for the implementation of the two energy connectivity flagship projects. In the area of food, agriculture, and forestry, member states are working on a number of initiatives to pursue sustainable agricultural production, enhance product competitiveness, and ensure food safety. In tourism, the Visit ASEAN@50 campaign is the main initiative with which ASEAN member states join efforts in offering the best tourism products and services to international visitors to celebrate the 50th anniversary of ASEAN.

Over its 50 years, how has the organization stayed relevant and dynamic?

Five decades of cooperation and integration have made ASEAN one of the most successful regional organizations in the world. ASEAN works together through fostering deeper understanding, building trust, and cooperating to pursue common interest in the context of diversity in full recognition of its varied but shared interests and aspirations that demonstrates its unique strength. ASEAN maintains its unity on the basis of shared commitments and collective responsibility for regional peace and prosperity, the principles of respect for national independence and sovereignty, and non-interference in the internal affairs of its member states. Decisions in ASEAN are made by consensus. This “ASEAN Way" is to ensure that no member is left out of the solutions on issues of shared concerns or interests. ASEAN's strength lies in the fact that it has been able to manage and turn a disadvantage into an advantage. To keep itself relevant and maintain it centrality in the evolving regional architecture and enhance its capability to respond effectively to unfolding complicated regional and global developments, ASEAN is implementing measures to streamline its processes and improving its working methods, including updating the ASEAN Charter.