The future of ASEAN is a part of the world, matters to all of us: British Ambassador to Vietnam

Sharing about the ASEAN Future Forum 2024, British Ambassador to Vietnam Iain Frew highly appreciated Vietnam's efforts to implement this initiative and said that the Forum was held at decisive time.
The UK Ambassador
Deputy Foreign Minister Do Hung Viet with British Ambassador to Vietnam Iain Frew at the press conference on the ASEAN Future Forum 2024. (Photo: Anh Sơn)

What is your opinion on the demand to have such kind of forum as ASEAN Future Forum 2024 for policymakers and experts to discuss the future of the Association? Kindly share your expectations about the Forum?

I'm delighted that ASEAN Future Forum has been arranged and we as the UK are able to support it. ASEAN is looking to its future after 2025 and within ASEAN, there are many discussions going on about direction for ASEAN and ASEAN member states and how to set high level future direction for decades to come.

ASEAN Future Forum is going to make an important contribution to the discussions around what direction ASEAN should take and how it wants to operate in the future.

I'm delighted to see Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam and Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs so actively engaged in these questions, and we as the UK are really happy to support and be part of those discussions as well.

It's going to be a very important moment on that milestone, especially looking ahead towards Malaysia chairmanship of ASEAN next year, which leaders will agree that future direction.

As ASEAN’s youngest Dialogue Partner, what are your expectations about the development of ASEAN in the future as well as the central role of ASEAN?

One of the reasons that we are dialogue partner is that the UK decided to prioritise its relationship with ASEAN in recent years as we focused increasingly on the Indo-Pacific and as we left the European Union, so relationship with ASEAN is a strategic choice from the UK.

As the youngest dialogue partner, we're also very actively engaged because that membership isn't just about being a member. It's also about the activity as a member and about the vision that we share.

Our expectation is that ASEAN will continue to have a central role in Indo-Pacific region in defining direction of the region, in contributing to peace, stability, economic growth in the future.

As a dialogue partner, the UK is not only supporting this forum, but also we have a plan of action as a member across five years. We've already completed 80%, 82% in fact, of the actions agreed with ASEAN under our dialogue partnership.

A really important part of that membership is the five programmes that the UK has agreed with ASEAN to support ASEAN member states in areas of economic and social development, such as economic integration, green transition, health, education, and women, peace and security.

In the current challenging international context, in your opinion, what are significances of ASEAN's development model for promoting peace and stability in the region as well as the world?

ASEAN's pillars of development set out its contribution to the region and I think that model has contributed to peace and stability.

The structures of ASEAN, including ASEAN Regional Forum, ASEAN Defence Ministerial Meeting Plus, are also fora which are important for partners to engage with and which the UK looks forward to contributing to in the future.

Here in Vietnam, we can see the benefits of what ASEAN and its development model have brought. It has supported and contributed to Vietnam's own impressive record of economic growth and development, and contributed to stability and security in the region, which underpins that growth.

The UK Ambassador
British Ambassador to Vietnam Iain Frew shared with the reporter of the WVR. (Photo: Tuan Viet)

How do you evaluate Vietnam's efforts in ASEAN and Vietnam's role in promoting ASEAN's relations with partners?

We see Vietnam as contributing to the key issues that ASEAN is addressing, both in terms of economic and social development, also to wider questions around regional peace and security.

The responsibility that Vietnam takes as an ASEAN member to addressing those questions, whether they be around questions such as maritime security and Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea or addressing the challenges in relationship with Myanmar.

Those are areas where Vietnam is playing an active role, and we appreciate that highly and look forward to working with Vietnam in the future on the way that Vietnam addresses, together with ASEAN partners, these sorts of challenges.

Vietnam is an active member of ASEAN. What do you think about Vietnam’s role in ASEAN. In South China Sea issue, what do you think about the potential of COC?

It's for the ASEAN countries to determine the pace and destination of COC discussions and negotiations. The important thing is that any code of conduct agreed complies with principles of international law and UNCLOS, and this is a clear position from Vietnam and Vietnamese Foreign Ministry as well, and that it contributes to peace, stability and a free and open Indo-Pacific.

Principles of freedom of navigation and of parties resolving disputes on a peaceful basis and on the basis of negotiation are very important to us, they're very important to Vietnam, and those should be the basis for going forward as well.

What do you think about the balance strategy of ASEAN in the the region where competition among big powers occurs?

There is a very clear message from ASEAN in my view, which is that ASEAN centrality means that ASEAN countries have the first say in what happens in their region, and I think that principle is very important, it's one that the UK supports, and it's one that it allows ASEAN countries to consider their relations with external partners like the US or China on their own terms.

ASEAN's approach allows it to have space to make decisions in addressing the questions of development, in addressing issues of security, in addressing questions of peace and security, in a way that allows them to navigate any geopolitical tensions effectively.

We as the UK support that principle, but in practice when it comes to the ways in which ASEAN countries look to protect their interests and work with partners. The UK is very committed to working on maritime security, to working on economic resilience and addressing issues like how we can ensure supply chains and sources of essential minerals. It's important that we all work on that in a collaborative way, and that we don't see the kind of disruption that might come from heightened geopolitical tension.

ASEAN is a bloc of 700 million people with an economy that's growing one of the fastest in the world. That's the individual ASEAN countries, but also ASEAN as a bloc. That drives a geopolitical weight and it drives an economic weight, which means that ASEAN's voice is important in the international fora and international discussions about future of trading arrangements and security arrangements.

So I think that ASEAN has the view of its future, but also this is a part of the world which matters to all of us and we want to deepen our engagement with so that we can work together on all those issues.

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