October 6, 2022
PHNOM PENH – Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn has urged all ASEAN member states to strengthen links with development partners to launch connectivity initiatives and cooperation projects throughout the region.
Speaking at the 13th ASEAN Connectivity Symposium in Phnom Penh on October 3, he said the future of the region depends on the strength of regional competitiveness.
Sokhonn emphasised the need to enhance regional connectivity in boosting regional competitiveness, which could only come from a well-connected bloc acting in unison.
“Our regional supply chains need to remain efficient and resilient. ASEAN has to engage with its development partners to initiate various connectivity initiatives and cooperation projects all across our region.
“For ASEAN, the approach is about getting maximum synergy from all the various existing connectivity initiatives to extract the necessary value added,” Sokhonn said.
The symposium was held in cooperation with the ASEAN Secretariat and the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) under the theme “Enhancing Connectivity towards an Inclusive, Sustainable and Resilient ASEAN Community 2025 Vision”.
Sokhonn said entry into force of the mega Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) free trade deal would drive the regional economy.
There was a need to align the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity (MPAC) 2025, he said, so it could link various strategies and initiatives in the region to support an inclusive, sustainable and resilient ASEAN.
ASEAN secretary-general Lim Jock Hoi highlighted the need for ASEAN to be resilient, adaptable and responsive to ever changing needs.
“While we continue to plan for the future, we need to build a dynamic link between thinking about the future and taking actions in the present,” he said.
He added that ASEAN must work with all partners in the short, medium, and long term, and demonstrate that “the resources they invested in the region will benefit them as much as it benefits ASEAN”.
ERIA president Hidetoshi Nishimura underlined the importance of digital connectivity in the implementation of MPAC 2025.
He referred to ERIA’s work on the Comprehensive Asia Development Plan 3.0 (CADP3.0), which highlights strategies for establishing a more integrated, innovative, inclusive and sustainable economy in ASEAN and East Asia by promoting physical and digital connectivity in the region.
“I am highly confident that CADP3.0 will contribute to deepening ASEAN’s connectivity beyond 2025,” Nishimura said.
Prime Minister Hun Sen, while addressing the 41st Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) General Assembly in Phnom Penh on October 4, said Cambodia, as the chair of ASEAN, is highly committed to contributing to resolving all issues affecting the region.
This, he said, is to ensure peace, harmonisation and a comprehensive partnership aimed at accelerating and sustaining development for the shared destiny of regional security, development and common prosperity.
This was the first time the ASEAN Connectivity Symposium had been held in person after the lifting of pandemic-induced travel restrictions.
The event brought together more than 160 participants, including ASEAN Connectivity Coordinating Committee (ACCC) members, representatives from ASEAN sectoral bodies, dialogue partners and other external partners, multilateral organisations and the private sector.
Against the backdrop of post-pandemic recovery, the symposium exchanged views on current issues and emerging trends, as well as challenges the 10-member regional bloc encountered in developing the ASEAN Connectivity 2025 Agenda.
The meeting also discussed ways to strengthen partnerships on ASEAN Connectivity with various stakeholders, as well as how sustainable infrastructure, smart city development and digital innovation can shape and enhance the evolving regional network, contributing towards building an inclusive, resilient and well-connected ASEAN Community.
The symposium is an annual flagship event inaugurated in 2010 that continues to serve as a platform to engage stakeholders to identify potential areas of cooperation to enhance the implementation of MPAC 2025 and the wider ASEAN Connectivity agenda.
Political analyst and observer Meas Ny said the dream of the ASEAN Community uniting as a whole is difficult to achieve, something that could be seen since the first forming of the bloc in 1967.
This is due to differing political tendencies, conflicts of interest and the diplomacy of the regional organisation, which is a barrier to internal unification as desired in the early Cold War era.
With the regional bloc having set the principle of consensus in achieving any plan, he added, ASEAN seems to have further distanced, which also posed a hurdle to realising future objectives.