(Singapore, 17 December 2019) Proposed duration: 30-45 minutes 

Mr. Choi Shing Kwok, Director of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) Yusof Ishak Institute, Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, 

A very good morning to you all! 

It is indeed my great pleasure and privilege to be here today to speak before an audience of distinguished academia, government officials, members of diplomatic corps, and media people. 

I would like to thank Director Choi Shing Kwok and the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute for offering me this opportunity. 

I would also like to commend the work of the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, especially the ASEAN Studies Center for your long-lasting and productive efforts to promote better understanding about ASEAN and underscore the importance of ASEAN to a wider audience. Today, the Institute is renown across the region and beyond for being a leading research centre on Southeast Asia and Asia Pacific (and perhaps Indo-Pacific in the future). Ladies and gentlemen, 

This morning I am invited to talk about Viet Nam's ASEAN Chairmanship 2020. I don't know yet what are your specific interests in this topic. So I think I would better share with you what are in our mind when we assume the chairmanship and what we intend to do in this regard. 

In order to identify what we should do to best fulfill the ASEAN Chair's responsibilities in 2020, we have had to deliberate carefully about the followings: 

- What are the duties that the Chair is expected to perform? - In what global and regional context we are living in 2020? - Where is ASEAN now, what has ASEAN become and what more should be 

done to realize the ASEAN Community Vision 2025? - How does the chairmanship fit in Viet Nam's overall foreign policy? 

My presentation will touch on the above-mentioned questions before introducing the overarching theme, priorities that we chose for the ASEAN Chairmanship 2020, as well as sharing some thoughts on the way forward. 

First, how do we understand the role of ASEAN Chair in 2020? 

In the past, Viet Nam has served as Chair of the ASEAN Standing Committee in 2001 and ASEAN Chair in 2010. As ASEAN grows into being a Community and our regional integration deepens, our task of chairing ASEAN in 2020 shall be much more challenging 

As provided for in the ASEAN Charter (article 32), the Chair will work to promote and enhance the interests and well-being of ASEAN, through policy initiatives, coordination, consensus and cooperation; ensuring the centrality of ASEAN; ensuring ASEAN's effective and timely response to urgent issues or crisis situation affecting ASEAN; representing ASEAN in strengthening and promoting closer relations with external partners. 

As the Chair, Viet Nam also has the important role in identifying focused areas of cooperation, proposing new initiatives and plans which would contribute to achieving the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 and moving the ASEAN Community forward even beyond 2025. 

We also attach importance to the follow-up of the good works and initiatives grounded by previous Chairs such as Singapore's wonderful initiative on ASEAN Smart Cities Network, Thailand's great efforts on sustainable development and connecting the connectivities, to name but a few. 

So we know what we have to do, but the next question is what the global and regional context will bring to us in 2020? 

Despite the trend towards peace, stability and cooperation for development remain the order of the day, the regional and global landscape is experiencing rapid, uncertain and more complex changes, with intertwined opportunities and challenges. 

After twelve years of recovery and strong expansion, the world economy is growing more slowly than expected and risks are rising. In 2019, we expect slower growth in nearly 90 percent of the world. And more worryingly, protectionism is on the rise. Economic integration in many regions has slowed down. Trade as a whole also slows down, while trade tensions are increasing. 

Much has been said of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. It is true that technology has created hopes for higher productivity and higher human progress, concerns are also growing about its disruptive implications, uneven distribution of the benefits of economic growth and globalization, as well as potential cyber threats. 

Traditional security issues such as the development of weapons of mass destruction, arms build-up, and lingering territorial disputes, become more serious in both scope and scale. In addition, non-traditional security threats related to food security, natural resources depletion, environmental degradation, climate changes, cyber crime, terrorism are also on the rise. 

Taken together, these megatrends are likely to have a lasting impact on our life, and the global landscape. 

The current competitive nature of major powers' relations gives rise to many security implications. The unfolding competition has expanded from political, military to economic, technological and other fields. As a result of this competition, regional countries are under greater pressure to carefully navigate their policies so as to maintain an environment conducive to peace, stability and economic growth. 

Against this backdrop, let's take a look at ASEAN to see where we are now, what we have become and what more should be done to realize the ASEAN 

Community Vision 2025? 

Looking back on 52 years of development, we all can see ASEAN has come a long way since its inception in 1967. The remarkable achievements ASEAN has made, I think, far exceed what the founding fathers of ASEAN had imagined. 

From just 5 Southeast Asian countries, the organization has doubled in size and has grown to become a family of 10 nation states living in peace, stability, dialogue and cooperation. 

From a loose Association, ASEAN has evolved significantly towards a full fledged politically cohesive, economically integrated, and socially responsible Community. We have seen positive and tangible progress in implementing the ASEAN Community Blueprints 2025 with 90% of action lines having been or being addressed. 

Even if we are facing emerging challenges posed by the ever-changing regional and international geopolitical environment, ASEAN remains committed to reinforce ASEAN Centrality and unity. We are committed to ensuring resilience and adaptability in addressing those challenges and continue to work toward realizing the ASEAN Community Vision 2025. 

As a collective response to divergent regional cooperation initiatives and strategies such as Belt Road Initiative and the Free and Open Indo-Pacific, etc, ASEAN at the 34th Summit in June adopted the “ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific" after over a year of deliberation. This document asserts ASEAN centrality and should be seen as providing a guidelines and fundamental principles to engage with those 

initiatives as well as for potential cooperation between ASEAN and its partners in the Indian Ocean-Pacific Ocean region. 

Today, the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) is a prime example of how ASEAN is stronger as a collective body. Together, the 10 diverse countries make up a dynamic and attractive economic group, becoming an engine of the Asia-Pacific's economic growth. With a combined GDP of USD 3.0 trillion in 2018, as compared to USD 2.5 trillion in 2015, ASEAN is currently the fifth largest economy in the world and is predicted to become the fourth largest in 2030. 

However, ASEAN still faces major challenges ahead and much needs to be done to achieve the ASEAN Community Vision 2025. From maintaining its centrality and unity amid the increasing rivalry among major powers, mitigating negative impacts from trade tensions to forging a sense of we-belonging and ASEAN identity. In addition, various ASEAN pertinent issues remain to be addressed, such as relying on external resources, lack of efficiency and effectiveness in ASEAN's operations and mechanisms, etc. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

Apart from the ASEAN Community Vision 2025, how Viet Nam handles next year's ASEAN Chairmanship will go, of course, in line with Viet Nam's overall foreign policy. 

Multilateralism at both regional and global levels, plays an increasingly important role in Viet Nam's foreign policy. Our process of conducting economic reform, pursuing developmental goals, and deepening international integration is closely associated with our performance in the regional and global multilateral institutions. 

Our greater multilateral pro-activism has been evidenced by the fact that in the span of the last three years, Viet Nam successfully hosted such major regional and global events as APEC in 2017, World Economic Forum-ASEAN in 2018 and the Second US-DPRK Summit in 2019. 

In this context, 2020 has a significant meaning to Viet Nam's foreign relations as we assume both the ASEAN Chairmanship and a non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council. It also marks the 25th anniversary of Viet Nam joining ASEAN. 

Being a newcomer having to catch up with the older members, Viet Nam has gone a long way over the past 24 years, doing our best to fulfil the duties of an ASEAN member while making active contribution to the growth and development of ASEAN. Viet Nam has participated in all activities of the Association and honored its commitments to the bloc, including the implementation of all objectives of the ASEAN Economic Community. Viet Nam was the second ASEAN member after Singapore to 

have done that. Viet Nam is a pioneer in maintaining peace, stability and security in the region. In the economic field, Vietnam is also among the three ASEAN nations that have signed the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). 

The past achievements and experiences will enable Viet Nam to assume the Chairmanship of ASEAN in 2020 with confidence. With the Chairmanship, we also look forward to promoting bilateral relations with fellow ASEAN member states and external partners. We also aim to further enhance the country's international profile, and to promote our images, culture, and soft power to the world, 

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

With all the above deliberation in mind, Viet Nam decided to choose the theme for the ASEAN Chairmanship 2020 as "Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN”. The theme reflects our understanding of the challenges and opportunities ahead; and more importantly, the spirit of “Think Community, Act Community”. 

We hold that these two elements - Cohesive and Responsive - are greatly complementary to each other. A cohesive and developed community needs to enhance its responsiveness to external factors and, in return, responsiveness can only be attained if ASEAN is a strongly cohesive bloc. 

Accordingly, Cohesive reflects the need to enhance ASEAN unity and solidarity, economic integration, ASEAN awareness and identity, and work toward a “people centered” community. 

On the other hand, the Responsive element underlines the importance of promoting ASEAN pro-activeness, creativity and capacity in grasping opportunities and coping with challenges. 

Ladies and gentlemen, Key priorities 

What should ASEAN members, and ASEAN as a group, do to keep ASEAN cohesive and responsive? Guided by the overarching theme “Cohesive and Responsive", Viet Nam will focus on the following 5 key priorities during our ASEAN Chairmanship. 

1st - Unity and Solidarity 2nd - Economic Interests 3rd - Commonalities 4th - Partnership 5th -Institutional capacity 

Let me elaborate. 

Unity and Solidarity 

To become a cohesive and responsive Community, the most important glue is unity and solidarity. 

For the past 52 years, ASEAN has helped transform Southeast Asia from instability to stability, from antagonism to cooperation, from poverty to prosperity grown into one of the most viable and successful regional organizations in the world. These past records enable us to believe that ASEAN's unity and solidarity are the key to ASEAN's success and strength. 

Viet Nam will work to reinforce ASEAN Centrality and solidarity, to forge close relations and mutual support among Member States, to develop ASEAN collective approach on issues of common interest, to respond timely and effectively to challenges and threats to regional peace, security and stability... A very good example on what ASEAN did in this regard is the adoption of ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP). With the AOIP, ASEAN is telling the world that ASEAN has its own way of viewing and setting norms and principles for the Indo-Pacific cooperation. The AOIP also displays a vivid example of ASEAN's journey to reach collective and timely responses to global challenges, especially given the differing opinions and interpretations of the member states on the Indo-Pacific. 

Economic Interests 

The second glue for a cohesive community is for member states to share and build up common economic interests. Viet Nam will look to improve and maximize the convergence of AMS'economic interests to thrive and survive. All ten AMS share the key objective of achieving an ASEAN genuine single market and integrated production base. Other priorities that we work on include strengthening the development of SMEs in the region, increasing intra-ASEAN trade and investment flows, intensifying ASEAN's connectivity, narrowing the development gap and better equipping ASEAN economies and its peoples to adapt to the dynamic changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution 4.0. 


As a cohesive community, ASEAN should develop and forge commonalities through regional events, as well as through everyday life. This is the third glue needed. 

Recently, for example, at the 35th Summit in Bangkok in November 2019, ASEAN Leaders agreed to launch a joint bid to host the 2034 FIFA World Cup. I believe this move will help invigorate a stronger sense of community. 

Right now, we are very likely to encounter young people who can recognize Nike, McDonald or Versace logos, but have no idea how the ASEAN emblem looks like and stands for. Therefore, it is equally important for Southeast Asians to be aware of ASEAN, to feel that they are a part of a regional community and the benefits the ASEAN Community can bring to the region. Viet Nam will step up ASEAN's efforts in raising the profile of ASEAN within each member state, so that citizens understand the importance and recognize physical visibility of the Association at the grassroots level. 


52 years of ASEAN's existence and development has shown that ASEAN cannot advance its goals alone. ASEAN has engaged different countries, whether big or small, and mobilized support in order to realize ASEAN's community building efforts. Partnership is the fourth glue essential for a cohesive and responsive community. 

The interest of more countries to connect with ASEAN through Dialogue Partnerships or Sectoral Dialogue Partnerships should be well noted as it is a recognition of ASEAN's relevance in the global stage. 

Viet Nam will look to reinforce partnerships for peace and sustainable development through deepening and elevating relationship with partners around the world, enhancing ASEAN's role and image in the global community, and contributing to shaping the new regional and global architecture. 

However, we remain cognizant that ASEAN's external relations is not only the number of partnerships created, but on how these partnerships contribute to ASEAN Community-building, and to regional and global stability and prosperity. 

Institutional capacity 

Last but not least, a cohesive and responsive community could not be realized if its institutional capacity does not prove efficiency and effectiveness. We must make ASEAN-led mechanisms and processes more efficient and outcome-driven to meet and be relevant to new developments. With that in mind, Viet Nam will increase ASEAN's 

operational capacity and efficiency through institutional reform and improvement of rules of procedures and processes within ASEAN-led mechanisms. 

The way ahead 

As you can see, the agenda for Viet Nam's Chairmanship is a mix of continuity and change in 2020. We carry forward the work of previous Chairs. At the same time, we must take into account various aspects of ASEAN's latest developments. We also need to realize the ASEAN Community Vision 2025: Forge Ahead Together. 

We have prepared new initiatives and proposals across three pillars which I hope we can disclose at the later date after thorough consultation with ASEAN colleagues. However, I can safely share with you the following overall points: 

(i) Regarding the political-security pillar, we would like to focus on shaping, sharing and application of norms and rules, strengthening the habit of dialogue and cooperation while promoting confidence building, consolidating the existing political and security instruments and mechanisms as well as by intensifying cooperation to address emerging challenges. 

For example, we would propose ways and means to set the new directions for ASEAN-led mechanisms such as the EAS, ARF, ADMM+ in the next stage and further strengthen their efficiencies so that they would remain relevant and more responsive. 

We would also seek to enhance ASEAN's capacity in responding to developments in the region and the world over. Whenever something happens to ASEAN member states, ASEAN should be among the first responders that come to help. 

We would continue to promote holistic, cross-pillars, cross-sectoral approaches to address emerging security challenges, such as terrorism and violent extremism, cybersecurity and maritime security. 

In view of the importance of maritime domain, we would continue to promote maritime cooperation and security in the region, from safeguarding safety and freedom of navigation, upholding international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS, to addressing marine pollution, managing marine resources and ensuring safety and humane treatment to all seafarers, including fishermen in the region. 

With Viet Nam and Indonesia both sitting on the UNSC for the first time in 2020, as the ASEAN Chair, we will work closely together with other ASEAN Member States to advance ASEAN-UN partnership and actively contribute to the UN-led global efforts for maintaining peace and security. The role of ASEAN as a regional organization in peace building and reconciliation, in particular, through the works of 

the ASEAN Institute for Peace and Reconciliation (AIPR) and the ASEAN Women Peace Registry (AWPR) shall also be further promoted. 

(ii) With regards to the economic pillar, we will look to promote intra-regional economic integration, strengthening regional connectivity, promoting sustainable development and inclusive growth, and enhancing adaptive capacity and performance of ASEAN. Along that line, a regional conference will be organized to discuss ways to further boost intra-ASEAN trade and investment. We also consider creating a platform for sharing best practices in developing circular economy, developing the Digital Integration Index which serve as a tool for ASEAN to monitor and improve the effectiveness of each priority areas in the ASEAN Digital Integration Framework... Some initiatives linking academia, entrepreneur and start-ups are being discussed. 

(iii) For socio-cultural pillar, we will put forward some initiatives on developing high-quality human capital to meet the demands of the digital economy, social work and services for vulnerable groups, reducing maternal and newborn mortality rates among ethnic minority groups, setting up cooperation mechanisms to fight against fake news etc. 

(iv) At the same time, we focus on raising awareness about ASEAN identity, including promoting more frequent and extensive use of the ASEAN flag and anthem, encouraging the re-installation of ASEAN Lanes at airports and the display of ASEAN Logo on the travel documents of ASEAN Member States' citizens. 

(v) Regarding institutional capacity, we plan to conduct a thorough review of the ASEAN's organizational structure and its operations since the ASEAN Charter entered into force, further improve ASEAN's operational methods and procedures, enhance cross-sectoral and cross-pillar coordination, and organize more ASEAN meetings at the ASEAN Secretariat’s new building. 

Ladies and gentlemen, 


There is a lot of work to be done in the days ahead. But I have every confidence that if we work together, we can make the ASEAN Community a reality - one that is cohesive and responsive. 

Holding two key positions at ASEAN and the UNSC simultaneously, Viet Nam views these as great honors and responsibilities. At the UNSC, Viet Nam will work earnestly with other Council members to preserve regional and international peace and stability while promoting sustainable developmental goals and inclusive economic growth. It is also our priority to act as a bridge between ASEAN and the United 

Nations to realize common goals, particularly in conflict prevention and sustainable peace efforts. 

Since the launch of Viet Nam's National ASEAN 2020 Committee last year, preparations are well underway. I can affirm that Viet Nam is now ready for the ASEAN Chairmanship. 

I would also like to underline the important role that you who are present here today can play in disseminating information, raising awareness of the public, and shaping a healthy and meaningful public discourse about ASEAN and its community building process. 

Your contributions are vital to ensure that ASEAN's achievements are not just reflected on paper, but more importantly, can be seen, felt and heard in daily lives and to ensure the mantra "Think Community, Act Community” will touch the hearts and minds of each and everyone involved. 

Thank you for your kind attention./. 

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