22 November 2015

Focus on the ASEAN way: Malaysia's Prime Minister

Source: ASEAN Secretariat.

In his opening address at the 27th ASEAN Summit and related summits in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, YAB Dato' Sri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak, the Prime Minister (PM) of Malaysia, called for members to practise the 'ASEAN way'.

"We have stressed community and consensus-building, over the excesses of individualism and the seeking of selfish objectives. Non-violence over confrontation. Moderation over extremism. Showing respect, not just to our friends but also to our foes, for we know there is no virtue in humiliation. Peaceseeking and peace-building, instead of fanning the flames of conflict and war," he said.

Source: ASEAN Secretariat. 

The ASEAN way has already led to numerous benefits, including a combined GDP of US$2.6 trillion last year, a near 80% increase in seven years. On the economic front, the ASEAN Free Trade Area, or AFTA, has reduced tariffs to zero or near zero, PM Najib pointed out. "This has reduced the prices of countless goods, and means our citizens have more money to spend on their families. Without AFTA, our firms would find it harder to access each others’ markets," he said.

Unemployment would be higher without ASEAN, he added. "The overall rate among our ten nations is a comparatively low 3.3% – which economists attribute not just to countries, but to ASEAN attracting substantial flows of foreign direct investment," he said.

ASEAN has also allowed visa-free travel through nine out of ten member states.

A number of developments were announced in conjunction with the event to promote the ASEAN way, including:

The declaration of the formal establishment of the ASEAN Community on 31 December 2015. "..it is estimated that the measures we are implementing under the ASEAN Economic Community will raise overall GDP in ASEAN by 7% by 2025. That will be a gain for our economies in the hundreds of billions," the PM said.

Ten individuals and organisations honoured for their community-building efforts at the inaugural ASEAN People’s Awards.

The 1ASEAN Entrepreneurship Summit, a week-long assembly of 15,000 young entrepreneurs from all over ASEAN, ended November 22.

The establishment of the ASEAN Micro and SME Growth Accelerator Exchange for SME finance.

The signing of the ASEAN Convention Against Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. 

Signing Ceremony ASEAN 2025-6
Source: ASEAN Secretariat.

The signing of the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on ASEAN 2025: Forging Ahead Together, which incorporates the ASEAN Community Vision.

Earlier this year Malaysia also launched GOASEAN TV, a new English-language, ASEAN-focused travel channel that will serve as a platform for ASEAN member countries to jointly promote tourism in ASEAN, PM Najib added.

Going forward, the PM called for some 'low hanging fruit' to be implemented, including: special lanes for ASEAN citizens at every international port, road and airport, prioritisation of the launch of the ASEAN Business Travel Card, and strengthened ASEAN internship programmes, saying that ASEAN needs to "act more as ASEAN within our region".

"We need that single market and production base we talk about. We need the free movement of goods, services, skilled labour, capital and investments. At the moment non-tariff barriers, which affect daily life and employment across our nations, are too extensive... We need to cooperate to find solutions to environmental problems such as the haze, natural disasters including floods and earthquakes, and crises of migration," he said.

On the international level, ASEAN should be viewed as a force to be respected that is stronger than its member nations, he noted. "That includes maintaining peace, security and stability in the South China Sea. We stress the importance of resolving disputes through peaceful means, in accordance with international law including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. We call on all parties to exercise self-restraint, and avoid actions that would complicate or escalate tension," he said. "That is the ASEAN way."

PM Najib concluded his speech with the call to refer ASEAN as the ASEAN Community in future. "ASEAN can and should play a major role in shaping this Asian century, and work with our partners across the continents to shape a world of prosperity, peace and openness. A world in which the carnage wrought by terrorists has been replaced by tolerance, moderation and a true recognition of our common humanity," he said.