The Southeast Asia (ASEAN) leaders gathered in Bangkong, Thailand, since Nov. 1 - 4 - Photo by ASEAN Secretariat Office

JAKARTA (TheInsiderStories) – The Southeast Asian (ASEAN) leaders gathered in Bangkok, Thailand, since Nov. 2 – 4. Beside ASEAN Summit, the association also held East Asian Summit, 35th ASEAN – China Summit, ASEAN – India Summit, ASEAN – United Nation Summit, ASEAN – Japan Summit, ASEAN -US Summit, ASEAN – UN Summit, ASEAN – ROK Commemorative Summit, ASEAN – New Zealand Leaders’ Summit, and Indo – Pacific Forum.

In his opening speech, Thai’ prime minister General Prayut Chano-cha reiterated the importance of continuity and sustainability in ASEAN community-building efforts and commit to continue promoting partnership for sustainability, within ASEAN and in relations with the international community.

“We underscored the need to continue promoting synergy among the various ASEAN-led mechanisms, including the ASEAN Plus One, ASEAN Plus Three, EAS, ASEAN Regional Forum, and ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM-Plus),” he told the leaders at the meeting on Saturday (11/02).

He commended the significant progress of the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity (MPAC) 2025 in strengthening ASEAN Community-building and promoting sustainable development. He also welcomed the completion of the Initial Rolling Priority Pipeline of ASEAN Infrastructure Projects, which presents opportunities for sustainable infrastructure development and investment in ASEAN.

“We reiterated the importance of ASEAN centrality and the need to create links and synergies between MPAC 2025 and various key connectivity initiatives within and beyond ASEAN through the “Connecting the Connectivities” approach,” said the premier.

As known the countries has signed the sub-regional frameworks that involve ASEAN members, such as the Ayeyawady – Chao Phraya – Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy, Indonesia – Malaysia – Thailand Growth Triangle, the Brunei Darussalam – Indonesia – Malaysia – Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area, the Cambodia – Laos – Myanmar – Viet Nam cooperation, the Cambodia – Laos – Viet Nam Development Triangle Area, and the Singapore – Johor – Riau Growth Triangle.

Chano-cha reported, ASEAN, as a region, continued to register a positive performance in output, trade and investment. In 2018, the region’ economy grew by 5.2 percent, reaching a combined GDP of US$3.0 trillion to retain its position as the fifth largest economy in the world.

In the same year, ASEAN’ total trade reached $2.8 trillion in 2018, 23.0 percent was intra-ASEAN. While ASEAN’ total services trade worth of $778.6 billion, of which 15.7 per cent was intra-ASEAN.

On investment, he noted that inflows of foreign direct investment to ASEAN reached $154.7 billion in 2018, the highest to date, of which 15.9 per cent was intra-ASEAN.However, he noted, that global and regional growth outlook for output, trade, and investment remained subdued given the prolonged trade tensions and economic uncertainties.

“We expressed concern on the developments relating to the trade tensions between our major trading partners and reaffirm our strong commitment to upholding a transparent, open, inclusive, and rules-based multilateral trading system as embodied in the World Trade Organization (WTO),” the general stated.

He recognized the urgency to ensure the continued relevance of the WTO, through appropriate reforms to ensure that the system is more inclusive, its functions – particularly its dispute settlement mechanism – remain effective and are strengthened, to take into account the changing realities of the global economic environment.

Chano-cha welcomed the conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations and the commitment to sign the agreement in 2020. This will significantly contribute to an open, inclusive and rules-based international trading system and expansion of value chains.

He also appreciated the efforts to upgrade ASEAN’ existing free trade agreements (FTA), including, but not limited to, the full implementation of the ASEAN – China Free Trade Area, ASEAN – Korea Trade, ASEAN – Australia – New Zealand Free Trade Area, and the ASEAN – India Trade.

“We also expressed our appreciation to ASEAN’ FTA and development partners for their continued support to ASEAN’ Community building efforts through the various economic cooperation programs that they have established under the ASEAN Plus One FTAs,” he adds.

He reaffirmed the commitment of the leaders to make ASEAN a more connected and integrated region, leveraging on the possibilities presented by the digital economy and the interlinkages of global value chains. The premier looked forward to more initiatives to address the Non-Tariff Barriers in the region through the implementation of the principles in the Guidelines on Non-Tariff Measures.

On Indo – Paicific pact, he encouraged external partners to work with the region in promoting the principles as contained in the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo – Pacific and to undertake cooperation with ASEAN on the four key areas of cooperation, namely maritime cooperation, connectivity, sustainable development and economic cooperation, in order to realize practical projects.

He noted Indonesia’ initiative to convene the ASEAN Indo – Pacific Infrastructure and Connectivity Forum in 2020. All initiatives on the Indo – Pacific should advance ASEAN centrality and build upon ASEAN-led mechanisms.

On the matters relating to the South China Sea and the leaders took note of some concerns on the land reclamations and activities in the area, which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region. He sees the need to enhance mutual trust and confidence, exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities and avoid actions that may further complicate the situation and pursue peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS.

“We emphasised the importance of non-militarisation and selfrestraint in the conduct of all activities by claimants and all other states, including those mentioned in the DOC that could further complicate the situation and escalate tensions in the South China Sea,” said Chano-cha.

He stressed the importance of continued peaceful dialogue amongst all concerned parties in order to realize lasting peace and stability in a denuclearized Korean Peninsula by all concerned parties.

The general urged all concerned parties to resume peaceful dialogue and continue working towards the realization of lasting peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula, including through the full and expeditious implementation of the Panmunjom Declaration, the Pyongyang Joint Declaration and the Joint Statement by the US and North Korean Leaders.

by Linda Silaen, Email: linda.silaen@theinsiderstories.com