ASEAN leaders look to tackle major global issues at summit

The 19th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit convened here yesterday, with high expectations of tackling new global threats, including economic crises, energy security and climate change.

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung (fourth left) and other ASEAN leaders attend the 19th ASEAN Summit in Bali, Indonesia

The summit, themed "ASEAN Community in a Global Community of Nations", gathered heads of states and governments from 10 ASEAN member nations.

In his opening speech, President of the host country, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, said the summit was convened to solicit co-operation in the Southeast Asian region to reach the ASEAN Community by 2015.

"The world is faced with great changes... (and) new threat of economic crisis. Continuous uncertainties are haunting the global economy besides financial fluctuation like food security, water security, the issue of energy, climate change... Amidst such great changes, there are also great hopes placed on our region," Yudhoyono said.

"History has proven and tested that the ASEAN association is mature, able to keep stability and strengthen economic growth," he added.

Yudhoyono also raised five points to address in the coming days, including taking concrete steps to strengthen the three pillars of the ASEAN Community and implement the relevant action plans; promoting economic growth to make the ASEAN region more resilient in the face of global volatility; maintaining the leadership and centrality of ASEAN in regional co-operation architecture; ensuring the stability and security of the Southeast Asian and East Asian region; and strengthening the role of ASEAN in the global community in tackling global challenges.

"ASEAN must be part of the solution to global challenges, to facilitate and engage in the resolution," he stressed.

After the opening ceremony, the nations' leaders joined in a plenary session to discuss how to enhance their co-operation to build the ASEAN Community, carry out ASEAN Connectivity and expand external relations of the association.

Delivering a speech to the session, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung called on member countries to show their high political will and allocate necessary resources to timely realise the ASEAN Community on three pillars, which include ASEAN Security Community (ASC), ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) and ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC).

Accordingly, he said, the nations needed to clearly define prioritised targets for each year, each aspect and increase the co-ordination and supervision efficiency at both national and regional level on agreed plans.

Reviewing two years of implementing ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC) Blueprint, Dung suggested an increased co-operation within ASEAN and between ASEAN and its counterparts on this aspect. APSC, planned to be established by 2015, is expected to bring ASEAN's political and security co-operation to a higher plane.

He also urged to uphold the efficiency of tools and mechanism of ASEAN political-security co-operation, including the Treaty of Amity and Co-operation in ASEAN (TAC), the Treaty on the Southeast Asian Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone (SEANWFZ) and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties (DOC) in the East Sea.

The work aimed to ensure peace, security and spur development co-operation in the region, and promote the key role of ASEAN in the shaping of regional structure, Dung said.

He also wanted ASEAN to invest more into narrowing development gap, maintaining energy and food security and tackling emerging challenges, including climate change, maritime security, environment and water resources management, particularly on Mekong River.

Regarding the ASEAN Community, Dung said accomplishing its master plan was of crucial significance to establishing a united ASEAN Community in 2015 and it should be the first priority in co-operation.

As part of the plan, the PM suggested adopting ASEAN Travel Cards for ASEAN citizens at border gates of member states.

Also yesterday, Dung attended a meeting with Lao Prime Minister Thongsing Thamavong. The two sides affirmed to closely work together in regional co-operation, particularly on ensuring the sustainable use of Mekong River water resources.

On the sideline of the summit, representatives of the ASEAN member states signed an agreement to set up ASEAN Supreme Audit Institution (ASEAN SAI), which aims to improve good governance in the region. Working on an independent and non-political basis, the institution is expected to audit multilateral activities implemented within the region.

The institution's first congress was also held yesterday afternoon.

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