The Secretary-General of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has outlined his vision for the coming year at the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific.
Secretary-General Le Luong Minh said peace and stability were crucial for continued economic development and to improve the living conditions for the 600 million people in the ASEAN region.
The group has a goal to build an ASEAN Economic Community by the end of 2015.
“For this to happen, a peaceful and stable region, for continued development, needs to be ensured,” Mr Minh said.
He said ASEAN was well along the path to delivering its 2007 economic community blueprint, which promises a single market and a highly-competitive economic region.
“ASEAN has implemented about 80 per cent of all the measures,” Mr Minh said.
The Secretary-General was diplomatic when asked to comment on the strained relationship between Australia and Indonesia over asylum seekers.
“Indonesia is supporting the strengthening and further expansion of the ASEAN-Australian partnership,” he said.
“I hope those bilateral issues can be resolved amicably. We have not seen any negative impact of that bilateral relationship on the ASEAN-Australian partnership.”
He also repeated ASEAN’s call for self-restraint and non-use of force by all parties to disputes in the South China Sea involving China, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Taiwan.
“ASEAN is of the view that it needs to be resolved, but it can only be resolved, and it should only be resolved, among all parties concerned,” he said.
Mr Minh, Vietnam’s former Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, was endorsed as ASEAN Secretary-General in 2013 for a five-year term.
Australia is one of 10 ASEAN dialogue partners.
The Australia and New Zealand free-trade agreement with ASEAN started in 2010.
ASEAN members are Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.