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Tien Giang province in the course of 25 years as of Vietnam officially integrating into ASEAN: Fast development, well connection and being more adaptable by time

Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was established on August 8th, 1967 by the Bangkok Declaration in Thailand. When being founded ASEAN was composed of 5 countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Afterwards, through years ASEAN integrated new nations: Brunei as the 6th member in 1984; Vietnam as the 7th member in 1995; Laos and Myanmar as the 8th and 9th member in 1997; Cambodia as the 10th member in 1999, completely executing their desire to build ASEAN as a bloc consisting of all the nations of the Southeast Asian area.

The total area of ASEAN countries is about 4.5 million km2, with a population of nearly 650 million people. The total national income of the ASEAN countries reached 3,200 billion USD and export turnover of 2,800 billion USD (Data in 2019). ASEAN countries own rich and diversified natural resources which have been as the top of the world thanks to some principal resources as: rubber, tin, vegetable oil, wood, rice, sugar, raw oil, pineapple... ASEAN has been considered as a zone having high economic growth compared with other areas in the world and being most successful regional organization of the developing countries. However, the development is different among the countries of ASEAN. Myanmar has the lowest income per capita of around 200 USD/year. Indonesia is at the top in terms of its natural area and population, but its national income per capita is around 600 USD/year. While Singapore and Brunei, which are the smallest in terms of the natural area and population, have the highest national income per capital of around 30,000 USD/year.

Organizational structure of ASEAN is now as follows: (1) ASEAN Summit: This is the highest power agency of ASEAN with its official meeting once each 3 years and informal meeting at least 1 time during the 3-year period; (2) ASEAN Ministerial Meeting - AMM. (3) ASEAN Economic Ministers - AEM; (4) The Sector Ministerial Meeting; (5) Other Ministerial Conferences; (6) Join Ministerial Meeting - JMM; (7) General Secretary of ASEAN: being appointed by the top of ASEAN government under the recommendation of the Conference AMM with a term of 3 years and can be renewed, but not more than one term; (8) ASEAN Standing Committee (ASC); (9) Senior Officials Meeting - SOM; (10) The meeting of Senior Economic Officials Meeting - SEOM); (11) Meetings of other senior officials; (12) Joint Consultative Meeting - JCM); (13). ASEAN meetings with the Parties of Dialogue: (14) the ASEAN National Secretariat; (15) ASEAN committees in third countries; (16) ASEAN secretariat.

The fundamental principles for the relationship among the Member States and with the outside partners: in relation to each other, ASEAN countries always adhere to the 5 main principles stated in the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (the Treaty of Bali) are: (1) Respect independence, sovereignty , equality, territorial integrity and ethnic identity of all peoples; (2) All nations have their rights to lead their own peoples without the intervention, overthrow or coercion of outsiders; (3) Do not interfere with each other's internal work; (4) Resolve disagreement or dispute with peaceful, friendly remedies; (5) Do not do any threat or use any enforcement; (6) Enter effective cooperation together.

 Principles of coordinating the operation of the Association:

a/ The principle of best minds (consensus): it means that a decision is only considered by ASEAN when all members are adopted. This principle requires a long-term negotiation process, but is guaranteed to take into the national interests of all member countries. This is a principle applied in all of the ASEAN meetings and activities.

b/ Equality principle: being on 2 sides. Firstly, ASEAN countries, in spite of large or small, rich or poor are equally in the obligation to contribute and share rights. Secondly, ASEAN operations are maintained on a rotating basis, i.e. officials presiding over ASEAN meetings from the junior to the senior level, as well as the venue for those meetings are evenly distributed to member countries on A rotating basis in A, B, C in English.

 c/ To facilitate and accelerate the ASEAN economic cooperation programs in the framework Agreement on strengthening Economic Cooperation signed at the 4th ASEAN Summit in Singapore in February of 1992, ASEAN countries have agreed to apply 6-X principle, by which two or more ASEAN  countries are able to promote implementation of ASEAN projects in advance if the rest are not ready to participate, no need to wait for all memebers to do.

(Photo: Collectibles)

Year 2020 is the year of utmost importance to Vietnam, marking 1/4 centuries we officially joined ASEAN (28/7/1995). In particular, this year, the celebration of this memorable event coincided with the moment Vietnam took charge of the second rotating chairman of the association. Viet Nam joined ASEAN in 1995 as one of the most important landmarks in Vietnam's foreign diplomacy history since the August Revolution of 1945. This historical event also has great significance to the region, bringing Southeast Asia from encountering to the dialogue, from suspicion to trust, from splitting to solidarity.

With ASEAN, integrating Vietnam as the 7th member is to accelerate the process of expanding the association to all 10 countries in the region, thereby helping to strengthen peace and stability in an area, having its particular geo-political, geo-economic importance; and being the connection center of the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean. When Vietnam joined ASEAN, ASEAN's status, roles and economic scale are still quite modest. In the past 25 years, the world has witnessed the strong changes of the association; and to date, 10 ASEAN countries become a unified community with increasingly high reputation in the region and around the world.

On the platform of the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC), along with the formation of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and the Treaty on Southeast Asia of Free-nuclear Weapons Zone (SEANWFZ), ASEAN gradually became a dynamic and attractive development area for many countries around the world. The establishment of the ASEAN Free Trade Zone (AFTA) and the signing of the ASEAN Free Trading Agreements (FTA) with a wide range of key economies in the world have contributed to the prosperity of ASEAN, bringing ASEAN into one of the most dynamic economic development areas in the world.     

To change ASEAN into a community of political cohesion, economic linkage and sharing social responsibility, on 31/12/2015 the countries of the Association have agreed to establish the ASEAN community based on 3 main pillars: the political community - security (APSC), Economic Community (AEC) and the Socio - cultural Community (ASCC). Accordingly, ASEAN has strived to create a peace and security environment for the region development; a single common market and unified manufacturing base with the free flow of goods, services, investment capital and skilled labor force. Based on that foundation it aims at improving competitiveness and promoting the prosperity for the whole region; creating an attractive hub for investor and businesses from outside; building a society which is willing to share, cover, be responsible and do all the things towards people in the region. The process of building community has also created new promotion for efforts to maintain peace, stability; strengthen economic links in the internal bloc and with the Asia - Pacific region as well as continuously improve the quality people's life.

With Vietnam, joining ASEAN is considered an important milestone marking the very important progress of Vietnam on the path of regional and international integration. We have gradually integrated with the increasingly confidence and activeness; proactively, continuously developed role as a reliable partner and responsible member of the community of Southeast Asian countries in particular and the international community in general. Looking back at the past 25 years, what we gained when being a member of ASEAN? According to experts, Vietnam has gained many important and practical benefits as follows:

- Firstly, ASEAN is one of the important grounds for us to gradually integrate the world, create an international environment favorable to the construction and defense of the country. Over the past 25 years, Vietnam with ASEAN countries have been together building a friendship, cooperative and non-war region in Southeast Asia. Paired with the promotion of ASEAN cooperation, we have established strategic and comprehensive partnership with neighboring countries, regions, large countries and many other important partners. The growing role in ASEAN helps us to take advantage from international support to protect the security and development benefits, including effectively solving the problems of the East Sea.

- Secondly, joining ASEAN helps us integrate deeper international community, mobilize resources, especially FDI to serve for development and improve comprehensive national power. By the end of July 2020, the registered FDI capital from ASEAN investors to Vietnam reached nearly 82.2 billion USD, accounting for 21.6% of the total FDI registered investment capital in Vietnam. The average investment scale of a project by ASEAN countries in Vietnam is around 19.9 million USD, higher than the average FDI investment of a project from other countries to Vietnam. According to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, after 25 years Vietnam joining ASEAN, this area has become one of the leading economic - trade partners of Vietnam. Compared with the start of participating in ASEAN free Trade Area (AFTA), the total import and export turnover between Vietnam and the ASEAN region increased by more than 17 times, from 3.3 billion USD in 1995 to nearly 57 billion USD by the end of 2019. Of which the export turnover was 24.96 billion USD and the import turnover was US 32.09 billion USD. The key export products from Vietnam to ASEAN market are telephones and components; computers, electronic products and components; textile products... Meanwhile, our country imports mainly machinery and equipment; petroleum; computers, electronic products and components...

Following the process of joining ASEAN, Vietnam actively participated in the Asia - Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, the Asia - Europe Cooperation Forum (ASEM), World Trade Organization (WTO), FTAs of new generation such as the Comprehensive and Progressive Partnership Agreement (CPTPP), the Vietnam - EU Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA), which helps Viet Nam in promoting reforms, expanding market, enhancing exports, attracting investments, ODA, thereby stimulating economic growth for many years.

 - Thirdly, integration into ASEAN helps Viet Nam gradually improve the multilateral diplomacy and enhance the international position of the country. Successful participation in ASEAN has been helping Viet Nam in performing many important multilateral tasks such as non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (term 2008-2009, 2020-2021); in hosting the APEC Summit (2006, in 2017), actively participating in the construction of international "game rules", having cooperation in dealing with global challenges such as climate change, the Covid-19 epidemic...

- Fourthly, the 25-year process of participating in ASEAN has trained and enhanced the qualification of staff doing the foreign affairs and international Integration from central to the local level; helping us be more confident and strong when "going out to the big sea" and global integration.

For Tien Giang, the process of international integration has also taken place quite early, rightly from the last years of the 80 decade of the previous century, when the first National Assembly of Vietnam passed the Law on Foreign Investment in the late 1987, allowing foreign investors to set up a business owning 100% capital. However, the development of the province was only really fast since Vietnam officially joined ASEAN in 1995. The achievements that the province has gained over the past 25 years can be "palpable" through the figures below, proving the dynamic and active development process of the province:

- Firstly, the growth of the gross regional domestic product (GRDP). During the period from the last years of the 90s decade of the previous century until 2010, the province's growth rate was quite high, averaged about 8 to 9% per year, always standing in the top of the provinces in the Mekong. However, due to the growing economic size of the province and high ICOR index the growth rate of GRDP of the province for the periods of 2011-2015 and 2015 - 2020 has dropped, reaching an average of 7.4% and 7.3%, but still belongs to highly developing group of provinces in the Mekong Delta area.

- Secondly, the next highlight of the province's economic development is to attract foreign direct investment (FDI). By the end of June 2020, the province attracted 129 FDI projects with registered capital of 2.68 billion USD. The capital from ASEAN countries is about 361 million USD, accounting for 13.47% of total overall. Some countries in the region having high investment capital are: Malaysia - 200.7 million USD, Singapore - 105.8 million USD, Thailand - 51.4 million USD and the Philippines - million 3.2 USD with the main sectors of agricultural processing, animal feed of all kinds, beverage...

- Import and export: This is a very impressive growth target in the past years. By the end of 2019, the total export turnover of the whole province reached $3.25 billion USD, of which the export value to ASEAN countries was around 800 million USD, accounting for about 24% of the province's overall export turnover. The major export products are textiles, leather shoes, copper tubes, rice, fruits, aquatic products. Together with export, the import turnover of goods from ASEAN countries has also increased evenly over the years. In 2019, the total import turnover of the province reached about $1.94 billion USD, of which the import value from ASEAN countries was around 303.2 million USD, accounting for 15.6% of the general import turnover of the province. The principal imported goods are raw materials for the processing of metals, textile raw materials, footwear leather, handbags, machinery, spare parts, animal feed, pharmaceutical raw materials...

- Tourism: the total number of tourists coming to the province in 2019 reached about 2.1 million passengers, of which the international guests were around 850 thousand turns. Among international visitors coming to the province, visitors from ASEAN countries reached about 200 thousand turns, accounting for 23.6%. In private, the number of Vietnamese tourists coming to ASEAN countries has been increasing sharply through the years due to the advantages of geographical distance, easy travel procedures, many similarities in culture, history...

- Local international cooperation: In the recent years, implementing the direction of the Central Government, Tien Giang province has constantly promoted cooperation with ASEAN countries, especially neighboring countries. Up to now, the province has established a meaningful partnership with the province of Pursat, Kingdom of Cambodia (2012) and Khammuane - Laos (2015) and is under the course of discussing about the cooperation with a province of Indonesia. In addition, annually the provincial administration also holds its business trips to the consular agencies for wishing New Year and participates in the celebration of National Day, anniversaries and diplomatic events held by diplomatic representatives of ASEAN countries in HCMC.

- People's exchanges and other cooperation: Being together with economic and trade cooperation, people's exchange activities between ASEAN countries and provincial people have also taken place more abundantly and diversely time by time. Typically, Singapore partners often send their student delegations to the province to learn about the local reality and exchange with provincial students. In 2017, the Provincial People's Committee sent 02 delegations, consisting of senior officials as heads of departments, branches and chairmen of the People's Committee of districts, cities and towns to Singapore to practically study the experience of administrative reform. The Consulate General of Thailand in HCMC organized several practical surveys along the Mekong River to connect the cooperation of agriculture and tourism for leaders of the provinces in the Mekong Delta area. There are still many other types of cooperation in agriculture, fisheries, climate change prevention... between ASEAN partners and the province cannot be cited in this article range.

As stated above, in the year 2020 we celebrate 25 years joining the association. Vietnam and ASEAN countries have identified the common theme for the year as the "Connection and proactive adaptation". For the past seven months, Vietnam's efforts as president of ASEAN have well reflected this spirit. Together with solidarity, connection with the ASEAN countries and the support and close cooperation of the partners, ASEAN has ensured the effective implementation of its objectives of collaboration and  linkage in 2020; overcome difficulties, challenges; initially control the epidemic Covid-19; and simultaneously soon remedy epidemic consequences, have well recovery and development.

In the whole process, Tien Giang will always stand with the country, try its best to strengthen cooperation with ASEAN partners on all 3 pillars of the community, strive to build ASEAN to be increasingly strong as the opinion of the Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc "... Single efforts needs to be reconnected, beyond the national level, becoming a joint action of the ASEAN community./.

Translated by the Department of Foreign Affairs

 


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