Special Update on the 35th ASEAN Summit in Bangkok

Published on 18 November 2019

The 35th ASEAN Summit was held in Bangkok/Nonthaburi on 2-3 November 2019 under Thailand’s 2019 Chairmanship theme ‘Advancing Partnership for Sustainability’.

Key Outcomes of the Meeting

Below are the prioritised outcomes related to the economic pillar of the ASEAN Community based on the Chairman’s Statement of the 35th ASEAN Summit.

A. Key Deliverables

  1. ASEAN Integration:
    • ASEAN underscored the need to continue promoting synergy among the various ASEAN-led mechanisms, including:
      • The ASEAN Plus One
      • ASEAN Plus Three (APT)
      • East Asia Summit (EAS)
      • ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and
      • ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM-Plus)
  2. ASEAN reaffirmed its shared commitment to maintaining and promoting peace, security and stability in the region, in accordance with the universally recognised principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
  3. Sustainability:
    • Implementation of the ASEAN Leaders’ Vision Statement on Partnership for Sustainability is in progress.
  4. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):
    • ASEAN reiterated its commitment to the SDGs and welcomed the statement delivered by Thailand on its behalf at the SDG Summit on 24 September 2019 in New York.
    • The Complementarities Roadmap, currently in development, will serve as guidance for further advancing the Complementarities Initiative during 2020-2025.
    • The ASEAN Centre for Sustainable Development Studies and Dialogue (ACSDSD) was launched in Thailand.
    • The ASEAN Forum on SDGs with National Development Planning Agencies: Accelerating SDGs Implementation in ASEAN was convened.
    • ASEAN welcomed the convening of the following conferences:
      • The Directors-General Forum of ASEAN Countries on Development Cooperation.
      • The 4th ASEAN-China-United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Symposium: Innovation in Achieving the SDGs and Eradicating Poverty.
  5. Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity (MPAC) 2025:
    • Significant progress was made with regards to the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity (MPAC) 2025 in strengthening ASEAN community-building and promoting sustainable development.
    • The Initial Rolling Priority Pipeline of ASEAN Infrastructure Projects, which presents opportunities for sustainable infrastructure development and investment in ASEAN, was completed.
    • Efforts are ongoing to implement the project on the “Development of an ASEAN Database on Trade Routes and Framework for Enhancing Supply Chain Efficiency” to create a more seamless and connected ASEAN, as well as the initiatives on technical and vocational education and training (TVET) and higher education to enhance human capital and foster people mobility.
  6. ASEAN Integration (IAI) Work Plan III:
    • The Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) Work Plan III (2016-2020) implementation review was completed.
    • Recognising the importance of monitoring, review and evaluation of the capacity building projects and technical assistance to Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV), the IAI Task Force was tasked with following up on the recommendations from the review to improve the effectiveness of the Work Plan III.
  7. ASEAN supports the efforts of sub-regional frameworks that involve ASEAN Member States such as:
    • The Ayeyawady – Chao Phraya – Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS),
    • Indonesia–Malaysia–Thailand Growth Triangle (IMT-GT),
    • The Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA),
    • The Cambodia–Laos–Myanmar–Viet Nam (CLMV) cooperation,
    • The Cambodia–Laos–Vietnam Development Triangle Area, and
    • The Singapore–Johor–Riau (SIJORI) Growth Triangle.
  8. ASEAN Smart Cities Network (ASCN):
    • Progress was made in the ASEAN Smart Cities Network (ASCN), particularly in the implementation of the Smart City Action Plans, which contribute to the development of smart and sustainable cities.
    • The ASCN Terms of Reference was adopted at the Second Annual ASCN Meeting on 23 August 2019 in Bangkok.
    • Singapore was appointed as the ASCN Shepherd who will provide advice and support to the ASCN Chair for the next two years.


B. ASEAN Economic Community

  1. Key ASEAN statistics:
    • Combined GDP in 2018: US$3.0 trillion
    • Economic growth rate in 2018: 5.2%
    • Retained its position as the fifth-largest economy in the world in 2018
    • Total merchandise trade in 2018: US$2.8 trillion (23.0% was intra-ASEAN trade)
    • Total services trade in 2018: US$778.6 billion
    • FDI inflows in 2018: US$154.7 billion (highest to date, out of which 15.9% was intra-ASEAN)
  2. Trade:
    • Concluded negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) with 15 participating countries excluding India and the parties committed to sign the RCEP Agreement in 2020. India did not conclude the negotiations due to outstanding issues. All RCEP participating countries will work towards resolving these issues.
    • ASEAN’s efforts to upgrade existing free trade agreements include:
      • The full implementation of the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area (ACFTA) Upgrading Protocol;
      • Further liberalisation of Sensitive Track products under the ASEAN-Korea Trade in Goods Agreement;
      • the Work Plan for the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA) Upgrade Negotiations; and
      • The review of the ASEAN-India Trade in Goods Agreement to make it more user-friendly, simple and trade-facilitative for businesses.
    • ASEAN’s FTA and development partners continue to support community-building efforts through the various economic cooperation programmes that they have established under the ASEAN Plus One FTAs.
  3. Priority Economic Deliverables for Thailand’s ASEAN Chairmanship:
    • The ‘ASEAN Declaration on Industry Transformation to Industry 4.0,’ was issued. Among others, it reaffirms ASEAN’s commitment to advance Industry 4.0 through the development of an ASEAN consolidated strategy on the 4IR, as well as explores the possibility of establishing new mechanisms and open platforms to support government, academia and industry to accelerate the ASEAN transformation to Industry 4.0.
    • At the 51st ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting (AEM) in September 2019, the following framework and guidelines were adopted:
      • The ‘ASEAN Digital Integration Framework Action Plan (DIFAP) 2019 – 2025‘,
      • Guidelines on Skilled Labour/Professional Services Development in Response to 4IR‘,
      • The ‘ASEAN Declaration on Industrial Transformation to Industry 4.0‘ and
      • The ‘Policy Guideline on Digitalisation of ASEAN Micro Enterprises‘;
    • The AEC Council endorsed the ASEAN Digital Integration Framework Action Plan DIFAP 2019-2025 and is expected to adopt the ASEAN Innovation Roadmap 2019-2025.
    • ASEAN supports the onboarding of 7 ASEAN Member States in the live-operation for the exchange of the ATIGA e-form D via the ASEAN Single Window (ASW).
    • Under the ASEAN Infrastructure Fund, several financing initiatives including the Inclusive Finance Facility and the ASEAN Catalytic Green Finance Facility (ACGF) were launched. The $1.3 billion ACGF, supported by green development partners intends to catalyse private sector financing into green infrastructure projects in ASEAN.
    • The ASEAN Tourism Ministers are expected to adopt the ASEAN Gastronomy Tourism Master Plan in 2019 which will serve as non-mandatory guidelines for gastronomy best practices in ASEAN Member States.
    • Progress was made in the development of the Guideline on ASEAN Local Currency Settlement Cooperation Framework.
    • ASEAN commended the endorsement of the Roadmap for ASEAN Sustainable Capital Markets and the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the ASEAN Centre for Energy (ACE) and the National Science and Technology Development Agency of Thailand on 5 September 2019 to support higher utilisation of bioenergy, human resource capacity development and work towards the establishment of an ASEAN Research and Development Network Center on Biofuels and Bioenergy in the region.
    • ASEAN also supports the commencement of a feasibility study on an ASEAN General Fisheries Policy.
    • The Concept Proposal on the Establishment of the ASEAN Network for Combating Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing was adopted at the 41st ASEAN Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry (AMAF) Meeting.
  4. ASEAN supports more initiatives to address the Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) in the region through the implementation of the principles in the Guidelines on Non-Tariff Measures (NTMs) and the signing of the Mutual Recognition Arrangements (MRA) on Type Approval for Automotive Products (APMRA).
  5. The ASEAN Guidelines on Good Regulatory Practice (GRP) for technical regulations, as well as the ASEAN Principles on Harmonisation of Regulatory Regime were adopted.
  6. ASEAN commended the acceleration of Patent Cooperation by nine ASEAN Member States to process artificial intelligence (AI)-related inventions through the ASEAN Patent Examination Co-operation (ASPEC) Acceleration for Industry 4.0 Infrastructure and Manufacturing (ASPEC-AIM) and the continued implementation of the ASEAN Framework on Digital Data Governance.
  7. Two Guidance Notes on Financial Education and Consumer Protection and the Digital Financial Services were published and will serve as guidelines for the pursuit of prospective activities to promote digital financial inclusion, financial education with a focus on digital financial literacy, and consumer protection in the region.
  8. The Protocol to Amend the Mutual Recognition Arrangements for Tourism Professionals (MRA-TP) was signed. The protocol would enable more tourism professionals to be recognised under the MRA-TP.
  9. Sustainable economic development and inclusive business:
    • ASEAN commended the continuing efforts to sustain regional power integration and promote multilateral power trade in the ASEAN Power Grid through the conclusion of the Feasibility Study on Multilateral Power Trade and the ASEAN Renewable Integration Analysis Study on integrating renewable energy into cross-border power trade, and looked forward to follow through the recommendations in 2020.
    • The region surpassed its energy intensity reduction target of 30% by 2025, based on 2005 levels.
    • ASEAN welcomed the intensified efforts to achieve ASEAN’s renewable energy aspirational target of 23% share of renewable energy in the region’s total energy mix by 2025.
    • ASEAN committed to further strengthen its cooperation to advance the fight against the illegal wildlife trade, especially:
      • global and regional wildlife trade policy,
      • demand reduction,
      • law enforcement, and
      • wildlife cybercrime.
  10. The 2nd ASEAN Inclusive Business Summit was held on 1 November 2019 to produce economic opportunities and improving Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) with new socio-economic development paths.
  11. ASEAN supports ASEAN-Business Advisory Council (ASEAN-BAC) initiatives including the ASEAN Human Empowerment and Development towards 4.0 (AHEAD 4.0), digital trade connectivity and the ASEAN Mentorship for Entrepreneurs Network that will help prepare ASEAN for the 4IR, as well as for the long-term future.
  12. The ASEAN Integration Report 2019 was published. The report provides key updates on the implementation of the AEC Blueprint 2025.
  13. The concept note for the AEC Blueprint 2025 Mid-Term Review was endorsed by the AEC Council. The completion of the review will be undertaken by the ASEAN Secretariat from 2020 to early 2021.
  14. ASEAN supports concerned ASEAN Member States on issues relating to unfair market access and treatment for palm oil. These will bring negative impact on palm oil producing countries and their strenuous efforts to attain Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), palm oil sustainability and environmental protection.


C. ASEAN External Relations

  1. ASEAN welcomed Chile as a Development Partner. It noted the role of the Committee of Permanent Representatives of ASEAN (CPR) in promoting ASEAN external relations including with the 93 Ambassadors of non-ASEAN Member States accredited to ASEAN.
  2. ASEAN supports the role of the ASEAN Committees in Third Countries and International Organisations to promote ASEAN’s interest and to forge partnerships in the respective host countries and international organisations.
  3. ASEAN Plus Three (APT):
    • ASEAN reaffirmed its commitment to further strengthen and deepen functional cooperation under the ASEAN Plus Three (APT) process which plays a key role in regional community building in East Asia, with ASEAN as the driving force.
    • ASEAN agreed to further enhance APT cooperation in wide-ranging areas by implementing the APT Cooperation Work Plan 2018-2022.
    • ASEAN also looked forward to the continued implementation of the East Asian Vision Group II recommendations aimed at promoting East Asian cooperation.
  4. East Asia Summit (EAS):
    • ASEAN agreed to further strengthen EAS cooperation by implementing the Manila Plan of Action to Advance the Phnom Penh Declaration on the EAS Development Initiatives (2018-2022).
    • Discussion and efforts to strengthen the EAS continue to be held, in line with the 2015 Kuala Lumpur Declaration on the 10th Anniversary of the EAS and based on the established objectives, principles and modalities of the EAS.

Summarised by Aznita Ahmad Pharmy, Research Fellow, CIMB ASEAN Research Institute.