Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Wiranto and Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi attended the 18th ASEAN Political-Security Community Council Meeting in Singapore (11/13) - Photo by ASEAN2018 Organizing Committee

JAKARTA (TheInsiderStories) – Today, the 33rd ASEAN Summit has officially started in Singapore. ​During the Summit, the ASEAN Leaders are expected to take stock of ASEAN’s achievements in this year and will review the progress of ASEAN’s relations with the dialogue partners and the deepening cooperation with them on a number of priority areas.

In a speech at the opening ceremony of the summit, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong called on ASEAN members and partners to uphold multilateralism and international cooperation in future development and tackling common challenges including terrorism and climate change, Xinhua reported.

“The international order is at a turning point. The existing free, open and rules-based multilateral system, which has underpinned ASEAN growth and stability, has come under stress,” the premier said.

ASEAN has reaffirmed commitment to multilateral trade and made substantial progress towards completing negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), he added. Lee also called for international cooperation in tackling non-traditional and trans-national threats, including terrorism and climate change.

In the following days, related summits are also scheduled to take place, including the ASEAN+1 summits, ASEAN+3 (China, Japan and South Korea) Summit and the East Asia Summit.

Leaders of 10 ASEAN countries and six of its dialogue partners, namely Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand, will meet for their second RCEP leaders’ meeting today.

The United States Vice President Mike Pence, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are among those expected to join ASEAN meetings.

Li is expected to rally support for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) pact now being negotiated, showcased to be the free trade deal that will cover 16 countries, including China, India, Japan and South Korea, but not the US.

South China Sea

Before the Leaders Meeting, foreign ministers of the ASEAN agreed on a single negotiating text draft of the Code of Conduct for the South China Sea, as an effort to resolve dispute in the region, Antara reported. The single document will help ASEAN to negotiate with China regarding the settlement of the South China Sea dispute.

The statement was made by Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi after attending the 18th ASEAN Political-Security Community Council Meeting on Tuesday (13/11). The first reading between ASEAN and China for the single draft negotiation document will be carried out next year.

“Previously, ASEAN member states and China had their own negotiation documents, but now it has become a single document that we agreed on,” she said.

Previously, Coordinating Minister for Politics, Law and Security Wiranto stated the South China Sea dispute must be resolved peacefully by respecting the agreed conditions. In addition, Indonesia encourages the completion of various agreements that lead to a comprehensive settlement, he added.

“But it is not easy because each (country) has an interest in the South China Sea,” said the minister.

Digital Business

On Monday (13/11), ASEAN member countries signed an agreement on e-commerce to support the digital economy in the region. Minister of Trade Enggartiasto Lukita said the agreement was to support the development of the digital economy by creating a conducive environment for e-commerce growth.

Indirectly, the minister added, the cooperation framework builds greater digital connectivity in the ASEAN region. Previously, ASEAN member countries agreed on a trade cooperation framework on e-commerce system to support the development of the digital economy.

“Indonesia has joined in signing trade cooperation on e-commerce to support the development of digital economy and trade in ASEAN countries,” said Enggartiasto.

The ASEAN agreement on electronic commerce was signed by other ASEAN economic ministers. The signing was a series of the 33rd ASEAN Summit which took place from Nov. 11 to 15, 2018.