Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh said that attention should be paid to lift ASEAN internal connectivity to a new height while pursuing the essential principles of the group in outlining a post-2015 vision.

He made the statement at the two-day ASEAN Foreign Ministers (AMM) Retreat that ended yesterday in Hua Hin.

Minh proposed a number of specific measures to serve the vision-building process, such as reviewing the implementation of the master plan for ASEAN Politics-Security Community, and finalising the evaluation of the implementation of the master plans for Social-Culture Community and the Economic Community.

He introduced a number of measures to further boost the ASEAN-China relations, while calling for more support from China for ASEAN’s priorities.

He said it was vital to strengthen existing co-operation mechanisms and tools, such as the ASEAN-China free trade agreement, ASEAN-China trade fairs and ASEAN-China Centres, while promoting connectivity between people and cultural exchanges.

The event focused on the direction of the ASEAN Community beyond 2015 to ensure continued peace, stability and sustainable economic growth in the region.

It also included preparations for the upcoming Special ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers Meeting to be held in Beijing from August 28-30.

Regarding the future for ASEAN, the ministers agreed that it was necessary to speed up the implementation of objectives towards building of an ASEAN Community by 2015, while beginning discussions on a vision for the grouping at the same time, so that ASEAN would maintain its strong and stable development and promote its central role in both regional and global issues in the decades after 2015.

They urged member countries to work harder to mobilise all resources for important co-operation programmes of the association, such as the master plan on ASEAN connectivity (MPAC), the Work Plan II of the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) to narrow the development gap.

On the ASEAN-China strategic partnership, the minister said the ties had seen rapid and comprehensive developments in all fields.

Besides continuing to boosting the existing ties, ASEAN and China should also further their co-operation in the 11 prioritised areas as defined before, including agriculture, information and communications technology, resource development, two-way investment, Mekong basin development, transport, energy, culture, tourism, public health and environment.

Two-way trade between the two sides almost hit US$400 billion in 2012, while total Chinese investment in ASEAN has surpassed $100 billion, they noted.

China has been ASEAN’s largest trade partner for many consecutive years, while the association is also China’s third biggest trade partner.

The ministers reached high consensus that in the future, the association should exert more effort in implementing the ASEAN-China plan of action for 2011-15 period and striving for $500 billion in two-way trade in 2015.

Discussing the East Sea issues, the ministers emphasised the significance of the ASEAN-China relations in maintaining peace, stability and maritime security and safety in the East Sea, the settlement of disputes through peaceful methods, with respect for international law and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

In particular, the ministers stressed that on this occasion, the two sides should pay more attention to, and step up, negotiations for the establishment of a Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC), aiming to better ensure peace, stability and maritime security and safety in the East Sea. — VNS