Vietnam will pick up the ASEAN Chair in 2020 . . .
Outcomes from the ASEAN Summit and East Asia Summit over the weekend proved a mixed bag: RCEP negotiations hit a roadblock with India, and the no-show of most ASEAN leaders at a meeting with U.S representatives was seen as payback for the absence of President Trump and downgraded U.S delegation at the summit. Vietnam, as the ASEAN Chair for 2020, will face the heightened challenge of moving RCEP forward and keeping its members engaged amidst the U.S.-China trade war while improving ASEAN-led mechanisms.
2020 a big year for Vietnam . . .
2020 will be a pivotal year for Vietnam, as it will officially assume the ASEAN Chair and undertake the role of non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. Vietnam established the ASEAN National Committee back in December 2018 to assist Vietnam’s prime minister in designing the roadmap and key priorities for ASEAN 2020. The next year will also be critical in implementing action plans for the bloc’s ‘ASEAN Vision 2025’ that was endorsed at the 27th ASEAN Summit in Malaysia in 2015. The ASEAN Vision 2025 lays out the goals and objectives to build ASEAN into a more integrated and cohesive “Political-Security Community,” “Economic Community,” and “Socio-Cultural Community.”
Challenging road ahead . . .
While RCEP members have pledged to seal the trade pact by February 2020, Vietnam is seen as a less diplomatically experienced chair compared to Thailand and may have difficulty in galvanizing the necessary support to seal the deal on time. In the midst of the U.S.-China trade war, maritime territorial disputes in the South China Sea, and human rights crises in Indonesia, Myanmar, and the Philippines, Vietnam faces a Herculean task in maintaining ASEAN’s solidarity and unity. Vietnam will also be responsible for promoting digital regional connectivity and leading ASEAN to take advantages of ‘Industry 4.0,’ no easy task given the polarization of 5G technology. The presence of the Vietnamese prime minister at the secondary ASEAN-U.S. Summit over the weekend, despite the absence of the other ASEAN leaders, was a clear signal of Vietnam’s commitment to its role in the year head.
- Vietnam Investment Review: Vietnam welcomes ASEAN chair status
- Bloomberg: ASEAN leaders snub U.S summit after Trump skips Bangkok meeting
- Vietnam News: PM attends summit to enhance ASEAN solidarity