The ASEAN Summits opened yesterday in Vientiane with regional leaders pushing forward the realisation of the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 to build a prosperous community.
Delivering his opening remarks, President Bounnhang Vorachit called for ASEAN member countries to work together to enhance regional economic integration and expand relations with regional and international partners.
We should work together towards further advancing the vibrant, sustained and highly integrated economies, enhancing ASEAN connectivity, the president told the opening ceremony at the National Convention Centre.
Leaders from the 10 ASEAN member states, theASEAN Secretary General and delegates attended the opening ceremony of the 28th and 29th ASEAN Summits and related summits.
The president called for support for efforts to narrow the development gap within ASEAN through various mechanisms, including the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI).
He said ASEAN should further strengthen external cooperation in various forms and modalities as appropriate, corresponding to the growing number of countries and regional and international organisations that express interest in engaging with ASEAN to ensure maximum benefits to ASEAN, taking into account the existing potential.
ASEAN established its community in December last year to form a single market and production base, becoming the world’s sixth largest economy, and an integral and central part of the evolving regional architecture, the president said.
In 2015, the region’s combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) reached US$2.43 trillion. ASEAN’s economy is projected to grow at an annual rate of 7 percent.
The president described ASEAN as a region of opportunity given its economic potential and growth prospects, combined with its uniqueness, characterised by varying political systems, diverse cultures, religions and languages, and said it enjoys peaceful coexistence, harmony and cooperation under the ASEAN Community through one identity and one vision.
I am of the view that the ASEAN Community is a community of opportunities not only for the over 620 million people of ASEAN but also for countries outside the region, he added.
President Bounnhang noted that regional and international environments have undergone challenges in recent years including security challenges, terrorism, extremism, natural disasters, climate change, migration crisis, trafficking in persons, territorial disputes and armed conflicts among others.
There is a need for ASEAN to closely follow these developments and continue to enhance ASEAN cooperation and collaboration with the international community to respond to and address the challenges in a timely manner.
The Lao president suggested that ASEAN must continue adhering to ASEAN’s principles in promoting the relevance and enhancing the centrality of ASEAN in its relations with external partners based on the ASEAN Way and in accordance with the particularity and reality of the ASEAN region, moving towards a dynamic, rules-based, people-oriented, and people-centered ASEAN Community.
He told the guests that ASEAN has become an important component in the Lao PDR’s foreign policy based on the principle of peace, independence, friendship and cooperation. Since joining ASEAN in 1997, the Lao PDR has actively participated in the cooperation frameworks within ASEAN and between ASEAN and external partners.
President Bounnhang said Laos has witnessed sustained economic growth over the past five years and recently adopted the next five-year national socio-economic development plan as well as the Socio-Economic Development Strategy 2025 and the Vision 2030.
These aim at further advancing national socio-eco nomic development while contributing to the implementation of the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 and the United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda 2030.
The president expre ssed his profound thanks and appreciation to all countries and regional and international organisations for their valuable support and assistance accorded to the Lao PDR during its ASEAN Chairmanship 2016.
In his welcoming remarks, Prime Minister ThonglounSisoulith as the Chair of the Summits stressed the need for ASEAN to effectively implement the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 and the three community blueprints to advance the ASEAN Community.
In this spirit, the Lao PDR has adopted the theme: Turning Vision into Reality for a Dynamic ASEAN Community for its 2016 ASEAN Chairmanship and identified eight priorities covering the three pillars of the ASEAN Community in order to realise it.
A number of related meetings were also convened yesterday including the 14th ASEAN Political-Security Community Council Meeting, and the 18th ASEAN Coordinating Council (ACC) Meeting.
The Prime Minister of the Lao PDR chaired the ASEAN Leaders’ Interface with Representatives of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA).
ASEAN leaders also signed the ASEAN Declaration on One ASEAN, One Response: ASEAN Responding to Disasters as One in the Region and Outside the Region.
President Bounnhang Vorachit called for ASEAN member countries to work together to enhance regional economic integration and expand relations with regional and international partners.
Source: Vientiane Times