Integrity Legal

21st August 2013

It was recently announced that Mr. Liu Zhenmin, Vice-Minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China and Mr. Sihasak Phuangketkeow, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand met for the first Thailand-China Strategic Dialogue on August 19. These two officials discussed many issues of importance to both countries and assessed not only the Sino-Thai relationship, but also the relationship both countries maintain with the nations comprising the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). To quote a recent press release from the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

Both sides noted with satisfaction the progress and the dynamism made in areas as high-level visits, trade and investment, tourism, culture and education since the adoption of the Joint Action Plan on Thailand-China Strategic Cooperation (2012-2016). Both sides agreed to maintain the momentum and, as for next steps, to deepen cooperation on high speed train, water resources management, green, renewable and alternative energy as well as education and human resource development as priority under the MOU on Cooperation on Sustainable Development. Both sides shared the view that the 3rd Meeting of the Joint Commission on Trade, Investment and Economic Cooperation should be convened soon to discuss ways to further promote trade and investment in order to achieve the bilateral trade target of 100 billion USD by 2015 set by the leaders of the two countries. Both sides also agreed to fully implement the MOU on Agricultural Trade Cooperation and facilitation trade in agricultural products and RMB should play a greater role in the business transactions between China and Thailand. Both sides reviewed the decade-long China-ASEAN Strategic Partnership and agreed that it has stood as a pillar of regional peace, stability and prosperity…

As the date approaches for the integration of the ASEAN economies thereby creating the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) many nations around the world and within the region are likely speculating as to how ASEAN and China will interact both geopolitically and economically. In fact, the recent Thai-Chinese dialogue occurs closely after a recent ASEAN Foreign Minister’s Retreat hosted in the Thai city of Hua Hin. Mr. Surapong Tovichakchaikul, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand, chaired the meeting. During the course of the discussions, the issue of the Sino-ASEAN relations was discussed. To quote directly from a different press release from the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

Mr. Surapong highlighted the importance of ASEAN’s centrality in the evolving regional architecture. He suggested that ASEAN should strive towards a common and more coordinated position and speak with one voice on matters that affect the interest of ASEAN…On ASEAN-China dialogue relations, Mr. Surapong emphasized the importance of maintaining the continuing the spirit of “constructive cooperation” for mutual trust and cordial relations between ASEAN and China, including through advancing trade facilitation and promoting ASEAN’s connectivity efforts with China. He looked forward to the convening of a Special ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers Meeting on 28 – 30 August 2013 in Beijing, to further discuss ways to enhance the strategic relations between ASEAN and China.

Clearly ASEAN’s future economic position is of interest to the Foreign Ministers representing the nations which are included in ASEAN. However, the future of Sino-ASEAN relations is of key importance not only in terms of regional politics, but in terms of global economics and international affairs. How ASEAN will interact with China on key international issues in the future is of significance for many nations in the Asia-Pacific region. Meanwhile, an integrated ASEAN economic bloc could represent one of, if not the, largest economies in the world at some point in the relatively near future. By capitalizing on such a situation to improve trade relations not only with China, but with the United States and the nations comprising the European Union, the countries of ASEAN could stand to reap benefits exponentially larger than those garnered through traditional bi-lateral negotiation.

It will be interesting to see what develops at the upcoming meeting of ASEAN and Chinese Foreign Ministers.


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