Dr. Hoo Chiew Ping, senior lecturer in the Strategic Studies and International Relations Programme at the National University of Malaysia, made the remarks in an interview with the Vietnam News Agency’s correspondents in Kuala Lumpur on the occasion of the 53rd founding anniversary of the association (August 8).
She said she agreed with Kishore Mahbubani and Jeffrey Sng, authors of “The ASEAN Micrcle” that the ASEAN Miracle can be recognised in three major areas.
Accordingly to Hoo, first, ASEAN is extremely diverse and yet able to harmonise the diversity through ASEAN. Second, as a region ASEAN went from one of the most impoverished regions in post-war era to become the most vibrant economy in the 21st century, and third, from geopolitical pessimism during the Cold War to laying foundation for regional security architecture anchoring on ASEAN's platforms.
In its development process, ASEAN has built relationships with many partners on the principle of dialogue and cooperation as a guideline for foreign relations. The bloc’s external relations are continually expanding and deepening through frameworks such as ASEAN Plus One (ASEAN 1), ASEAN Plus Three (ASEAN 3), East Asia Summit (EAS), ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting Plus (ADMM ).
She said ASEAN's external partnership has always been performing very well due to its platforms involving multilateral fora.
Presenting ASEAN as a united entity is important in managing external relations, she noted.
According to the expert, the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) is the basic criteria of ASEAN dialogue partnership. The signatories of TAC thereby form the core of ASEAN's external relations, and ASEAN platforms are understood as promoting cooperation rather than being utilised as a tool to go against other competing powers.
Regarding barriers and challenges that ASEAN needs to overcome to achieve its goal of doubling intra-regional trade by 2025, Hoo said ASEAN economic community should bridge economic connectivity among themselves by investing in industries by more developed countries into the less developed economies, encouraging openness by creating regional production and supply networks that focuses on each country's comparative advantage, and increase direct investment by regional corporations to induce regional market integration.
The idea of creating a brand name like "Made in ASEAN" may encourage intra-regional trade and economic cooperation, so private investments need to be encouraged by the governments, she said.
Measures should be taken to harmonise standards among the ASEAN member states, she said, adding that trade integration agenda should be taken more seriously by all member states, as serious as their focus on extra-regional trade./.