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ASEAN aspires for greater role in marching toward integration

By Wang Haiqing
JAKARTA, May 9 (PNA/Xinhua) – As ASEAN is marching toward the 2015 integration goal, the bloc starts considering playing a bigger role in regional affairs as well as on the global front.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, when speaking at the opening ceremony of the 18th ASEAN Summit on Saturday, said one of the top issues the 10-member bloc should now take into serious consideration is a vision for ASEAN in post-2015 period.
“We have to ensure successful discussions on the urgent need for a post-2015 vision for ASEAN, namely the role of ASEAN community in a global community of nations,” he said.
“ASEAN community in a global community of nations, which is also the theme of the ongoing summit, indicates the bloc’s growing aspiration to participate in world affairs at the same level as established powers,” analysts said.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said in an interview with local media that looking beyond 2015 is the right thing to do and the bloc will become stagnant if it fails to think forward.
As the rotating chair of ASEAN for 2011, Indonesia has taken the lead to set new target, namely how can the ASEAN community be cohesive and have a greater global role, said Natalegawa.
According to the chair’s statement of summit, ASEAN leaders agreed during the meeting to “accelerate the undertakings towards the ASEAN Community in 2015 and to achieve a common platform for ASEAN beyond 2015 in Southeast Asia”.
Indonesia’s permanent representative to ASEAN Gusti Ngurah Swajaya told Xinhua that ASEAN leaders have decided to push for two “changes” so as to increase ASEAN’s profile in international affairs.
The first is the establishment of a network among peace-keeping centers in ASEAN members, through which they could conduct joint planning, training and share experiences “with a view to establishing an ASEAN arrangement for the maintenance of peace and stability”, Swajaya said.
The other is to let ten ASEAN member countries “speaking in a single voice” in multilateral frameworks like UN.
For ASEAN members, the current common practice is for each member to present its own recommendation or statement. However, in the near future it will endeavor to present the ten countries as one unity and let the rest of the international society hear ASEAN ‘s voice on key global issues, Swajaya said.
Analysts believe ASEAN could exert greater influence globally as it becomes a more closely-organized body.
In terms of economic capacities, the bloc has a giant consumption market of nearly 600 million people and combined GDP of 1.8 trillion U.S. dollars, according to the latest statement by ASEAN officials.
Moreover, members of the body have registered robust growths following the global economic crisis.
Given progress achieved toward building “single-market” and “zero-tariff” zone by 2015, ASEAN is poised to have higher economic clout.
Meanwhile, on the political front, Indonesia, as ASEAN rotating chair, has recently made some rare mediation attempts on Cambodia-Thailand border conflict.
The move is viewed by many as a signal of the body’s growing will to help resolve regional security challenges.
ASEAN, which has long been stick to a “non-interfere” principle when it comes to bilateral issues between its members, may take a more active role in bringing bickering members together for dialogue. (PNA/Xinhua)

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