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Vietnam: role and ambitions in ASEAN

Vietnam: role and ambitions in ASEAN

What will be Vietnam's role in ASEAN? What are its growth prospects?

The eighteenth summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, an economic organization aimed at the development and economic, social and cultural growth of its member states (Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos), which took place in Jakarta, Indonesia from 5 to 8 May 2011, confirmed the important role played by Vietnam within the association.

On this occasion, the delegations of the member states discussed the three priorities set in the agenda which concern the consolidation of the already significant growth process experienced by the regional macro-area. In addition to strengthening the structural conditions necessary to continue on the path of economic development and social well-being, the Member States have defined a further implementation of measures in order to accelerate the process which should lead ASEAN to become a real Community, with more flexible political-economic measures and greater regional integration. Last key point, the planning of a common vision of the ASEAN Community after 2015, considering its role in the global context and the new scenarios of the international context. The leaders of the ASEAN countries therefore expressed points of convergence regarding the role and international status that the organization itself will have to play in the coming years.

The Vietnamese delegation, composed of the Vietnamese Prime Minister, Nguyen Tan Dung, and the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pham Binh Minh, expressed their satisfaction with the outcome of the summit, considered by all participants to be a great success. Phan Binh Minh, in addition to underlining the enormous progress made by ASEAN since its establishment 43 years ago, highlighting its role as an increasingly dynamic and increasingly open and integrated organization in commercial, political and economic relations in the global scenario, has expressed its point of view regarding the role and responsibilities of Vietnam within the macro-area, also from a future perspective.

Vietnam intends to assume a role of primary importance and is among the leading countries of the Community, together with Indonesia. Specifically, Prime Minister Dung himself specified that in order for ASEAN to become an important player on the world stage, it will be necessary to ensure that the same principles that contributed to the growth of Vietnam are assimilated even more strongly by Community. A foreign policy aimed at greater independence and autonomy, closer cooperation aimed at rapid development capable of keeping pace with internationalization processes, an accentuated multilateralism that allows for stronger and more active participation in the international integration process represent the keystones on which to base one's economic and diplomatic action. Precisely to implement the project, Vietnam has promoted, together with other member states, a road map in which what are considered the key points of the future ASEAN Community are established. The three pillars concern the management of security policy, the economy and socio-cultural aspects: ASEAN, through more effective forms of coordination, will have to be able to operate at both a national and regional level, and above all it will have to be able capable of overcoming divisions and bridging the gap between the different Member States.

There is no shortage of controversies. To the territorial disputes between Cambodia and Thailand and the complex political situation in Myanmar, there has been added the question of the exploitation of the Mekong river which has created discontent and diplomatic rifts between Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand on the one hand, and Laos (which intends to free itself from the regime of dependence of the strongest regional economies, Vietnam and Thailand) and China (which has long had its hands on the resources of the poorest ASEAN country) on the other.

Vietnam, in this sense, has demonstrated political maturity. During the Summit, he underlined the importance of greater cooperation with China, hoping for a prompt resolution of the Mekong River dispute, and to overcome these disagreements, Prime Minister Dung met with the head of the Secretariat of Government of Laos, Cheuang Sombounkhan, in order to overcome the controversy, to preserve and promote the bilateral relations of traditional friendship that have always characterized the two countries. Today's world looks at this area and Vietnam differently.

The attention paid by Obama to ASEAN is certainly not comparable to the lack of interest shown by George W. Bush. Also for this reason, the ASEAN Community will have to overcome regional divisions and create favorable conditions for maintaining peace, stability, security and development.

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