ISLAMABAD - Chairman ASEAN Committee Islamabad (ACI) Ambassador Nguyen Tien Phong on Sunday said that ASEAN is a symbol of shared property and economic development for the whole world including Pakistan, which is a catalyst in global economy and trade.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has established excellent economic and trade relations with the whole world, which is likely to improve further in the future, the ambassador said. He said that according to the vision of ASEAN, these economic relations are to further strengthen economic and trade integration in the world, from which the rest of the countries including Pakistan can also get benefits.

The 55th anniversary of this month will be made with the determination that ASEAN will play its full role for economic prosperity, trade integration to promote peace and harmony with the other regions of the world, Chairman Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEANs) Committee Islamabad (ACI) and Ambassador of Vietnam to Pakistan, Nguyen Tien Phong on told media. The ambassador said that today the economic volume of the ASEAN countries has exceeded $3.3 trillion, which is likely to improve further in the near future. He said that Pakistan’s trade volume with ASEAN countries is $11 billion, which is much less than its current potential. The ambassador said that ASEAN’s economic growth could further accelerate to 5.0 percent in 2022. The ASEAN’s total merchandise trade reached $3.3 trillion in 2021, of which 21.3 percent was within the region, while services trade reached $743 billion with intra-ASEAN comprising 11.7 percent, he said.

Meanwhile, inflows of foreign direct investments to ASEAN reached $174.1 billion in 2021, 12.0 percent of which was among ASEAN member states, he said. ASEAN were optimistic that macroeconomic fundamentals remain robust and committed to continue working together to ensure the region’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and as well as strengthening its region’s collective resilience and competitiveness in the long run, he said.

The ASEAN were pleased to note the significant recovery in the region’s economy, which expanded by 3.0 percent in 2021 compared to a 3.2 percent contraction in 2020. In the same month, the foundation of ASEAN was laid on August 8, 1967, he said. The ambassador said that regional integration of ASEAN countries is not only essential for the economic prosperity of the ASEAN region but also important for global economic linkages and connectivity. He said economic and trade liberalisation, multilateralism, credibility, global connectivity, economic stability, youth empowerment, maritime security, political stability, and regional to regional connectivity are part of ASEAN’s regional economic vision. He said that ASEAN reaffirmed its belief that regionalism and multilateralism are important principles and frameworks of cooperation, and that their strength and value lie in their inclusivity, rules-based nature, and emphasis on mutual benefit and respect.

The ASEAN underscored the importance of maintaining ASEAN’s unity and centrality in its community-building efforts and engagement with external partners, in promoting peace, security and stability as well as in enhancing regional resilience in response to common and emerging challenges, he said.

The ASEAN countries also shown its shared commitment to maintaining and promoting peace, security and stability in the region, as well as to the peaceful resolution of disputes, including full respect for legal and diplomatic processes, without resorting to the threat or use of force, in accordance with the universally recognised principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

ASEAN underscored the importance of seizing the opportunities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) with the COVID-19 pandemic having accentuated the urgency for digital transformation. Replying to a question on ASEAN and Pakistan relations, he said that Pakistan was accorded the status of sectoral dialogue partner of ASEAN at the 26th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on 23 July 1993. He said the inaugural meeting of ASEAN-Pakistan Joint Sectoral Dialogue Relations was convened on 5-7 November 1997 in Islamabad to launch the partnership.

The inaugural meeting agreed that ASEAN-Pakistan Sectoral Dialogue Partnership would initially cover cooperation in trade, industry, investment, environment, science and technology, drugs and narcotics, tourism and human resources development. The ASEAN-Pakistan Sectoral Dialogue Relations was institutionalised through the convening of the First Meeting of the ASEAN-Pakistan Joint Sectoral Cooperation Committee (AP JSCC) on 5th February 1999 in Bali. Ambassador Nguyen Tien Phong said that Pakistan acceded to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia on 2nd July 2004 in Jakarta. On the same day Pakistan was also admitted as the 24th participant of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF). ASEAN and Pakistan signed the Joint Declaration for Cooperation to Combat Terrorism at the sidelines of the 12th ARF on 29 July 2005 in Vientiane.

He said that in trade, ASEAN and Pakistan have undertaken a Joint Feasibility Study for an ASEAN-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement (FTA) to enhance and expand the overall ASEAN-Pakistan economic engagement. The ambassador was of the view that Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in which ASEAN plays an important role has huge potential for ASEAN and Pakistan economic, trade, investment to reach a new high level with the shift in paradigm from geo-politics to geo-economic in Pakistan.

He said that RCEP came into force on 1st Jan 2022, is a free trade agreement among the Asia-Pacific nations of Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. The 15 member countries account for about 30 percent of the world’s population (2.2 billion people) and 30 percent of global GDP ($29.7 trillion), making it the largest trade bloc in history. The RCEP includes a mix of high-, middle-, and low-income countries. It is expected to eliminate about 90 percent of the tariffs on imports between its signatories within 20 years of coming into force, and establish common rules for e-commerce, trade, and intellectual property, he said.