Special update on the 34th ASEAN Summit in Bangkok

Published on 9 August 2019

The 34th ASEAN Summit was held in Bangkok on 23 June 2019 under Thailand’s 2019 Chairmanship theme ‘Advancing Partnership for Sustainability’.

Key Outcomes of the Meeting

Key Deliverables

  • Adoption of ASEAN Leader’s Vision Statement on Partnership for Sustainability which aims to ensure sustainability in all dimensions.
  • The progress in enhancing inclusive sustainable cooperation:
    • Complementarities Roadmap to promote complementarities between the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 and the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
    • The establishment of an ASEAN Centre for Sustainable Development Studies and Dialogue in Thailand as a concrete step to steer sustainable development cooperation in ASEAN.

ASEAN Economic Community

  • Brunei joins the 5 ASEAN Member States (Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam) in the live operation of the ASEAN Single Window (ASW). The remaining ASEAN Member States will join by the end of 2019.
  • ASEAN heads of governments push for timely implementation of regional initiatives such as:
    • The ASEAN-wide Self-Certification Scheme (AWSCS)
    • The ASEAN Customs Transit System (ACTS)
  • ASEAN finalized the ASEAN Mutual Recognition Arrangement on Type Approval for Automotive Products (APMRA) and it will be signed and implemented at a later date.
  • Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP):
    • ASEAN governments are committed to concluding negotiations within 2019 to reinvigorate international trade and maintain ASEAN credibility and centrality, guided by the RCEP Work Plan 2019 which was endorsed by the Ministers at the inter-sessional meeting in Siem Reap in March 2019.
  • Financial cooperation and integration:
    • Signing of the Protocol to Implement the Eighth Package of Commitments on Financial Services under the ASEAN Framework Agreement on Services (AFAS) by ASEAN Finance Ministers on 5 April 2019. Negotiations for the 9th Protocol have commenced.
    • Endorsement of ASEAN Capital Markets Forum’s (ACMF) initiative to create the Roadmap for ASEAN Sustainable Capital Markets by the ASEAN Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors on 5 April 2019 in Chiang Rai, Thailand.
    • Ongoing work on innovative financing approaches through Inclusive Finance Facility and the ASEAN Catalytic Green Finance Facility, and connectivity through local currency settlement and cross-border retail payments.
    • ASEAN leaders support
      • ASEAN banking community to gradually adopt the principles of sustainable finance into business practices
      • The use of local currencies to promote trade and investment in our region
      • Continued efforts in developing a regional framework to facilitate the integration of real-time retail payment system in ASEAN, including the progress on the Thailand and Singapore payment system linkage targeted to enter live-operation by the first half of 2020
  • ASEAN Plus One FTAs
    • The signing of the Protocol to Amend the ASEAN-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement on 2 March 2019 in Siem Reap, Cambodia
    • ASEAN-Hong Kong, China Free Trade Agreement (AHKFTA) entered into force on June 11
    • ASEAN-Hong Kong, China Investment Agreement (AHKIA) entered into force on June 17
  • Issues of concern:
    • ASEAN is committed to upholding an inclusive, transparent, and rules-based multilateral trading system and fully supports efforts to reform and modernize the World Trade Organization (WTO).
    • Unfair market access and treatment of palm oil, as well as the sustainability of palm oil production among ASEAN Member States.
  • Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity (MPAC) 2025 progress
    • Initial Rolling Priority Pipeline of Potential ASEAN Infrastructure Projects has progressed and the ASEAN Infrastructure Projects is scheduled to be launched at the sidelines of the upcoming 35th ASEAN Summit and Related Summits.
    • Commencement of work on the development of an ASEAN database on trade routes and framework for enhancing supply chain efficiency.
    • Using the “Connecting the Connectivities” approach to promote links and interface between ASEAN and sub-regional arrangements as well as between ASEAN MPAC 2025 and the connectivity strategies of other countries and regions.
    • Tourism
      • ASEAN continues to encourage cooperation in the pursuit of ASEAN as a single tourism destination which promotes responsible, sustainable, inclusive and balanced tourism development,
      • ASEAN supports the liberalisation of air services under the ASEAN Single Aviation Market, including efforts to harmonise air traffic operations through the establishment of a Seamless ASEAN Sky.
      • Using the “Connecting the Connectivities” approach to promote links and interface between ASEAN and sub-regional arrangements as well as between ASEAN MPAC 2025 and the connectivity strategies of other countries and regions.
    • Ongoing development to prepare for the 4th Industrial Revolution
      • ASEAN Digital Integration Framework Action Plan (DIFAP) 2015-2025
      • ASEAN Innovation Roadmap 2019-2025
      • ASEAN Declaration on Industrial Transformation to Industry 4.0
      • Guideline on Skilled Labour/Professional Services Development in Response to the 4IR
      • Initiatives related to the digitalisation of ASEAN micro-enterprises.
      • ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ASEAN BAC)‘s 2019 legacy project ‘ASEAN Human Empowerment and Development (AHEAD)‘, which focuses on human capital development to embrace Industry 4.0
      • The publication of ‘ASEAN Vision 2040: Towards a Bolder and Stronger ASEAN Community‘ report by Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA), which provides recommendations on how to most effectively prepare ASEAN for the future, particularly the 4IR
    • The ASEAN Smart Cities Network (ASCN):
      • The ASEAN Smart Cities Network (ASCN) Roundtable was held on 6-7 June in Bangkok. Matters discussed at the meeting included:
        • the ASCN Terms of Reference,
        • the ASCN Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Framework that would further institutionalise the ASCN
      • ASEAN encourages the ASCN pilot cities to continue implementing their city action plans.
    • The ASEAN Meeting on Combating Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing was held on 4-5 April 2019 in Bangkok in partnership with the European Union; amongst the initiatives included:
      • Exchanging experiences and expertise on policies, regulations, and best practices to combat IUU fishing,
      • Strengthening cooperation on combating IUU activities among the enforcement agencies, authorities, and other relevant stakeholders in ASEAN through effective implementation of existing mechanisms under ASEAN, including relevant international law and instruments,
      • Implementing sustainable fisheries management and cooperation,
      • Exploring the possibility of establishing an ASEAN IUU Network.
    • Illegal Wildlife Trade
      • The Special ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Illegal Wildlife Trade (SAMM-IWT) aims to enhance regional efforts to reduce demand for illegal wildlife (IW) products, strengthen law enforcement, and encourage ASEAN Member States to monitor the online IW trade.
    • Ongoing sub-regional economic cooperation efforts
      • Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA),
      • The Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle (IMT-GT),
      • Ayeyawady – Chao Phraya – Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS),
      • New initiatives such as the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC)

ASEAN External Relations

  • Dialogue Partners (DPs), Sectoral Dialogue Partners and Development Partners
    • Relations with Dialogue Partners (DPs), Sectoral Dialogue Partners and Development Partners continue to be strengthened through existing frameworks, Plans of Action (POAs) and development cooperation programmes.
    • The commemoration of the 30th Anniversary of the ASEAN-Republic of Korea (ROK) Dialogue Relations will be held in November 2019 in Busan, South Korea, to further strengthen the partnership between ASEAN and the Republic of Korea.
  • ASEAN Plus Three (APT) cooperation framework
    • The ASEAN Plus Three (APT) continues to promote peace, stability, and prosperity in East Asia.
    • ASEAN is committed to further strengthening the APT cooperation through the implementation of the APT Cooperation Work Plan 2018-2022.
    • The sustained implementation of the East Asia Vision Group II recommendations continues to promote cooperation in East Asia.
  • East Asia Summit (EAS)
    • The EAS as a Leaders-led forum for dialogue on broad strategic, political and economic issues of concern to the region, in line with the 2015 Kuala Lumpur Declaration on the 10th Anniversary of the EAS.
    • The EAS to be further strengthened through the implementation of the Manila Plan of Action to Advance the Phnom Penh Declaration on the EAS Development Initiative (2018-2022).
    • The creation of synergy between EAS and other ASEAN-led mechanisms was encouraged and the need to strengthen EAS cooperation in response to emerging issues and challenges that affect peace, stability and prosperity in the region was noted.
  • ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF)
    • The importance of the ARF as a platform for cooperation and constructive dialogue on political and security issues of common concern in the Asia Pacific was reaffirmed.
    • The full implementation of the 2010 ARF Hanoi Plan of Action to Implement the ARF Vision Statement is currently executed through the continuation of practical activities under the ARF areas of cooperation.

Regional and International Issues and Developments

  • South China Sea
    • ASEAN reaffirmed the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability, safety and freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea and recognised the benefits of having the South China Sea as a sea of peace, stability and prosperity.
    • The importance of the full and effective implementation of the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in its entirety was noted.
    • The cooperation between ASEAN and China continues to improve and was encouraged by the progress of the substantive negotiations towards the early conclusion of an effective and substantive Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) within a mutually-agreed timeline.
    • The first reading of the Single Draft COC Negotiating Text is expected to be completed by 2019.
    • Concerns on land reclamation and activities in the South China Sea have eroded trust and confidence, increasing tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region.
    • The need to enhance mutual trust and confidence, exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities and avoid actions that may further complicate the situation and pursue peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS, was reaffirmed. The importance of non-militarisation and self-restraint in the conduct of all activities by claimants and all other states, including those mentioned in the DOC that could further complicate the situation and escalate tensions in the South China Sea, was noted.
  • Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea (DPRK)
    • The initiatives and efforts by the Republic of Korea (ROK), the US, and China to promote dialogue with the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea (DPRK) in order to achieve the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, was welcomed.
    • All relevant parties were urged to resume peaceful dialogue and continue working towards the full and expeditious implementation of the Panmunjom Declaration, the Pyongyang Joint Declaration and the Joint Statement by the US and DPRK leaders.
    • ASEAN reiterated its commitment to the full implementation of all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions and noted international efforts to bring about the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.
    • The importance of ASEAN-led platforms such as the ARF in promoting a conducive atmosphere to peaceful dialogue amongst the parties concerned was noted.
  • ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific
    • The ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific to help guide ASEAN’s engagement and cooperation in the wider Indo-Pacific region was adopted.
    • ASEAN centrality, inclusiveness, complementarities, a rules-based order anchored upon international law, and commitment to advancing economic engagement in the region as the main principles of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific, was reaffirmed.
    • External partners were encouraged to support and undertake cooperation with ASEAN on the key areas outlined in the Outlook as their contribution to maintaining peace, freedom and prosperity in the region.
    • The efforts taken by all ASEAN Member States, in particular, Indonesia for taking the lead, in finalising the Outlook which embodies ASEAN unity, centrality and leadership in the evolving regional architecture, was commended.
  • ASEAN Secretariat’s new premises
    • The new premises, which is provided by the Indonesian Government, will be inaugurated on August 8, 2019, in conjunction with the 52nd Anniversary of the founding of ASEAN.

ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific

On June 23, 2019, ASEAN disclosed their first articulation of the Indo-Pacific concept through the ‘ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific’ (AOIP).
    • This comes amidst heightened global interest in the geostrategic concept linking the Pacific and Indian Ocean zones, and builds upon traditional ASEAN principles and the bloc’s desire to maintain a central role in regional integration efforts.
    • The AIOP is situated alongside and within other regional and international frameworks, and hopes to build upon existing ASEAN-led regional mechanisms including the East Asia Summit and the ASEAN Plus One forum.
    • Objective: The AOIP is designed with maintenance of ‘peace, freedom, and prosperity’ in mind, and seeks to be guided by the peaceful settlement of disputes, the renunciation of threat or use of force, and the rule of law. The AOIP believes that collaboration can be practised in the realms of maritime cooperation, connectivity, sustainable development, and the economy.
    • Given the increasingly uncertain geostrategic environment which ASEAN finds itself situated in today, it is incumbent on ASEAN to develop its own conception of the Indo-Pacific to ensure their interests remain front and centre in the larger conversation.
  • The Outlook in its early stages, ASEAN describes it as a ‘guide’ for future engagement in the region.
The ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific should support and provide ballast for the current dynamism in the Indo-Pacific region, which should be viewed from the perspective of encouraging progress: