ASEAN must guard against divisive actions from major powers by constantly upholding the group’s centrality to protect all that has been achieved from being undermined by their unbridled rivalry, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said today.
Speaking at the 43rd ASEAN Summit Plenary Session, he said the group, where its diversity proved to be the strength, must enhance its institutional capacities, streamline mechanisms, and ensure timely implementation of its decisions.
“ASEAN has a unique opportunity through its plus platforms to bring together the competing parties to remind them of the need to prioritise dialogue and cooperation, to promote healthy competition and to ensure what they bring into their relations with ASEAN would help maintain peace, stability and prosperity in this region,” he said in his intervention.
Anwar pointed out that those outside the region have recognised ASEAN as one of the most successful regional organisations, particularly with regard to its ability in maintaining a region that is peaceful, stable, secure and prosperous.
“This has attracted many to establish relations with ASEAN, including major powers, whose rivalries are being played out right at the centre of and adjacent to our region,” he said.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim also urged Asean leaders to push for greater economic integration within the group and strive towards a regional economic architecture that is vibrant, inclusive, sustainable and resilient.
He said intra-Asean trade, which currently stands at only 22.3 per cent of Asean’s total trade, must be increased and greater strategic arrangements should be undertaken to enhance market integration.
Asean should also facilitate the movement of goods, capital, skilled workforce, and technology sharing among the member countries and its external partners.
“Partnership with external partners to contribute towards this aim should also be heightened,” he stressed in his intervention at the 43rd Asean Summit Plenary Session here.
“Malaysia stands ready to contribute through our MADANI Economic Framework which includes steps towards enhancing economic growth, promoting investment, and strengthening industries to become more innovative, competitive, and capable of expanding into the regional and global market.
According to Anwar, Asean has achieved unprecedented socio-economic advancements, from reducing poverty levels, to increasing inter-regional trade and advancing technological innovations.
He pointed out that the group has a combined Gross Domestic Product of nearly US$3 trillion (US$1=RM4.66) despite the global economic uncertainties, making the bloc the fifth-largest economy globally which is projected to become the fourth largest economy by 2030.