BANGKOK, Nov. 3 (Xinhua) -- The 35th summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the related summits kicked off here on Sunday with multilateralism and connectivity taking the center stage.
Addressing the opening ceremony of the summit, Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said to create a prosperous and sustainable region, "we should continue to work to conclude negations on RCEP (the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) within this year to stimulate economic growth as well as trade and investment."
The Thai prime minister also called for continued support for multilateral trade system under the purview of the World Trade Organization as well as regional and sub-regional economic cooperation frameworks such as the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area so as to enhance the economic resilience of ASEAN and the region.
The ASEAN and the world today are facing increased challenges including those to global economic growth and multilateralism, and close partnership and friendship will be crucial to enabling the region to tackle and overcome these challenges, Prayut said.
There is the need to promote a seamless ASEAN through the "Connecting the Connectivities" approach, both within the ASEAN region and beyond. This includes physical, people-to-people, financial and digital connectivity, he said.
The meetings over the next two days will be an important opportunity to demonstrate the partnership and friendship between the ASEAN and the world community, to take forward the outcomes of the last ASEAN summit and to craft a collective approach based on ASEAN centrality and its strength to address regional and global challenges, the prime minister added.
Thailand holds the rotating chair of the ASEAN for 2019.
Under the theme "Advancing Partnership for sustainability," the ASEAN summit will sum up the bloc's achievements in community building and integration during 2019, tap the opportunities arising from digital transformation and seek solutions to economic uncertainties facing the bloc.
The related summits are also scheduled to take place on Sunday and Monday, including the ASEAN+1 summits, ASEAN+3 (China, Japan and South Korea) Summit and the East Asia Summit.
Leaders of 10 ASEAN countries and six of its dialogue partners, namely Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand, will meet Monday for their third RCEP summit.
Established in 1967, ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.