A high-level workshop on “Promoting Intra-regional Trade and Investment for Cohesive, Proactive ASEAN Adaptation” took place on January 10 in Hanoi.

The workshop was attended by Secretary General of ASEAN 2020 and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Nguyen Quoc Dung; former Singaporean Foreign Minister George Yeo Yong-Boo; ASEAN Deputy Secretary General in charge of economy Aladdin D. Rillo; former Minister of Trade Truong Dinh Tuyen; former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Quang Vinh; ASEAN Senior Advisor 2020 Ambassador Nguyen Nguyet Nga; representatives from ASEAN embassies in Vietnam and international organizations; and domestic and foreign experts.

Emphasizing the importance of strengthening intra-ASEAN trade and investment for a cohesive and proactive bloc, Mr. Vu Ho, Director of the ASEAN Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told the opening ceremony that unprecedented transitions in the economic context and technological advances have brought about enormous potential for peace and sustainable development as well as extensive economic integration in the world. ASEAN countries must face enormous challenges, such as the tendency to compete with each other and ensure that everyone wins from globalization.

The question for ASEAN is how, in that context, to remain strong and coherent and jointly address the impact of competition. Over the course of its more than five decades, ASEAN has posted a great many economic achievements but it is clear that major potential remains to promote the intra-regional economy and investment within members.

ASEAN leaders reaffirmed their commitment to intra-ASEAN investment at the 34th and 35th ASEAN Summits. In 2017, ASEAN countries set a goal of doubling intra-ASEAN investment to 2025 and to better prepare for the Industry 4.0.

According to Mr. Vu Ho, strengthening the intra-regional economy and investment will contribute to realizing ASEAN’s priorities in the future. There are many barriers during the process of intra-regional investment that need to be tackled, including emerging issues such as policy institutions and logistics, among others. With the participation of many experts and high-level policymakers in the region, the workshop made valuable recommendations for regional economic integration.

Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Quoc Khanh said the bloc has made great strides forward in integration since members decided to establish the ASEAN trade area, with intra-regional trade increasing from $89 billion to $200 billion in 2019. For Vietnam, trade with ASEAN has also increased from $4 billion to $18 billion.

Mr. Khanh also emphasized that, today, with a population of 600 million people, ASEAN is the sixth-largest economy in the world and is an example of trade and economic integration with high growth compared to global growth, and this growth will be maintained in the coming years. In the context of increasing trade protectionism, ASEAN must strengthen its unity and maintain cohesion to overcome the challenges. As all businesses seek transparency in the intra-ASEAN investment process, members need to identify the problems and barriers for enterprises and resolve them together.