The 42nd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit formally kicked off in the Indonesian town of Labuan Bajo on Wednesday, with the country’s President Joko Widodo urging unity and economic integration for the regional bloc to play a central role in regional peace and development.
“With unity, ASEAN will be able to be a central player in bringing peace and development,” he noted in his opening address.
“In the future, ASEAN must strengthen its economic integration, strengthen inclusive cooperation, including the implementation of RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership), and strengthen the health, food, and energy architecture, as well as maintain the financial stability,” Xinhua news agency quoted the President as saying.
The summit is expected to produce a roadmap for Timor-Leste’s full membership.
Last November, ASEAN agreed in principle to admit Timor-Leste to be its 11th member.
Timor-Leste’s Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak was present at the summit in observer’s status and delivered a speech following President Widodo’s opening address, stressing a mutual recognition of a strong sense of togetherness in ASEAN community building, and reviewing his country’s major efforts towards the bloc’s membership.
In particular, Ruak thanked Cambodia’s active chairmanship last year, which he said was absolutely critical for his country’s admission in principle as the bloc’s 11th member.
This year, the Summit under Indonesia’s ASEAN chairmanship is themed “ASEAN Matters: Epicentrum of Growth”.
Indonesia has expressed hope that the bloc will remain a centre of regional and global growth, focusing on efforts to make ASEAN a fast-growing, inclusive, and sustainable economic region in the long term.
The Asian Development Bank forecast in early April that developing Asia’s gross domestic product will grow by 4.8 per cent this year and in 2024, up from 4.2 per cent in 2022, noting growth in the Asia-Pacific region remains resilient.
In the past decade, ASEAN’s average annual growth reached 3.98 per cent, above the global economic growth average of 2.6 per cent.
An ASEAN finance ministers and central bank governors meeting held at the end of March agreed to reinforce the use of local currencies in the region and reduce reliance on major international currencies in an effort to ensure financial stability and avoid spillovers such as high inflation from the global crisis.
The ASEAN, founded in 1967, groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
The last time Indonesia chaired ASEAN was in 2011, after hosting the summits in 1976 and 2003.
The country has scheduled the 43rd summit and the East Asia Summit to be held on September 6-7 in capital Jakarta.
ASEAN Summit is held twice a year.