Photo: ASEAN 2018 Organising Committee
Singapore (People’s Daily) – Open, rules-based multilateral trading system is under pressure, and the political mood in many countries has turned against free trade, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Saturday.
As the current annual chair of ASEAN, the Singaporean leader expressed worry over the recent trade dispute between the US and China. He said the 50-year-old organization has to adjust to a rapidly changing geopolitical landscape and chart a way forward. “New powers, including China and India, are growing in strength and influence, (and) this has opened up new opportunities for ASEAN member states as we expand cooperation with these major partners.”
Lee appealed to all ten member states to enhance integration and community-building efforts, proposing the annual theme of Resilience and Innovation. So far, ASEAN has launched two flagship initiatives — cyber security cooperation and smart cities network.
Lee praised Model ASEAN Extradition Treaty and ASEAN Single Window. The latter, which is operational in five member states, could cut down business costs and facilitate trade. ASEAN would continue to enhance infrastructure, sustainable urbanization and SME under Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025.
The annual chair launched two community-building initiatives —the ASEAN Law Academy program and Singapore-ASEAN Youth Fund.
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was established in 1967 by the Bangkok Declaration, and now includes ten countries in Southeast Asian region with a total population of about 650 million.