ASEAN Summit: Success Story for Regional integration, improved connectivity, market access and deepen cooperation in emerging areas
By Ru Cui
ASEAN, which was founded in August 1967, is a political and economic organization consisting of 10 countries located in the Southeast Asian region, namely Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar.
Indonesia hosted the 43rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and several other high-profile meetings associated with the Summit held in Jakarta from September 5 to 7. Leaders from 22 countries and nine international organizations attended the summit, making it the largest of its kind ever.
The 43rd ASEAN Summit concluded on Thursday with a series of outcomes in Jakarta, Indonesia. Chinese Premier Li Qiang on Thursday called for unity and promoting cooperation in East Asia, and expressed hope that countries outside the region fully respect the efforts made by regional countries to negotiate the rules of the South China Sea and maintain peace and stability in the region.
“Within three days, 12 summits have been held, resulting in 90 outcome documents and a number of concrete agreements with partners,” Indonesian President Joko Widodo said while addressing the closing ceremony of the summit.
As a grouping, ASEAN is the fifth-largest economy in the world, with a combined GDP of $3.3 trillion in 2021. ASEAN has become one of the fastest growing regions in recent years.
Due to geopolitical relations, the role of ASEAN in regional affairs and governance has attracted much attention from the international community. ASEAN has become an important force influencing regional and international affairs.
The most significant challenge in Jakarta is to decide how ASEAN countries can avoid tipping the balance between China and the U.S., and maintain sustainable economic growth despite the influence of the competition between them. To do this, ASEAN must maintain healthy ties with both countries.
Indonesia’s chairmanship in this year’s ASEAN Summit has the theme “ASEAN Matters: Epicentrum of Growth.” The priority for the 43rd ASEAN Summit focuses on how to strengthen ASEAN to become a fast-growing, inclusive, and sustainable economic region amid a changing world. This year’s theme reflects ASEAN’s determination to take its own development as the primary goal.
There are many topics on the agenda for the 43rd ASEAN Summit. Nevertheless, the focus is on the economy. How to achieve a fast-growing and inclusive growth by providing new impetus to the regional economy is the top priority among the member countries.
Attracting investment and boosting trade are vital for ASEAN. The ASEAN countries have enormous natural resources. They could offer huge potential opportunities for foreign investors. During the Summit, leaders discussed how to deepen cooperation in emerging areas such as the digital economy, e-commerce, food security and green economy. Deepening cooperation in these areas will make ASEAN more resilient to cope with future challenges.
The leaders also discussed the way to push for regional integration during the Summit. Economic fragmentation could slowdown regional economic growth and make ASEAN harder to tackle emerging challenges.
ASEAN has been China’s largest trading partner for three consecutive years. In the first half of 2023, trade with ASEAN countries accounted for 15.3 percent of China’s total trade, reaching 3.08 trillion yuan ($428.96 billion), up 5.4 percent from 2022.
The year 2023 marks the 20th anniversary of China’s accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC), and the 10th anniversary of an initiative by China to work with ASEAN countries for a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and for a closer China-ASEAN community with a shared future.
(Ru Cui is a Senior Journalist and currently working as Bureau Chief of China Media Group in Pakistan)