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Thayer Vietnam ASEAN Chair 2010

Thayer Vietnam ASEAN Chair 2010

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Published by Carlyle Alan Thayer
An analysis of Vietnam's contribution to ASEAN and future possible leadership role as ASEAN Chair.
An analysis of Vietnam's contribution to ASEAN and future possible leadership role as ASEAN Chair.

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Published by: Carlyle Alan Thayer on Oct 23, 2009
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Background Briefing:Vietnam as ASEAN ChairCarlyle A. ThayerOctober 30, 2009
[client name deleted]Question. Among the challenges that you told me in the previous email (to ensure thatconsensus prevails and that ASEAN moves forward, to oversee the expanding relationshipwith China and the US, to play a major role in investment and service negotiations withIndia..), what would be the most difficult or significant task for Vietnam and why
 Answer: The most challenging task for Vietnam as Chair of ASEAN will be to bridge thedifferences that have emerged among members about how to implement the ASEAN Charterto make the decisions of the Association more binding and effective especially in sensitiveareas such as human rights and religious freedom. ASEAN’s principle of non-interference inthe internal affairs of another country has often been used as a shield to avoid taking action.Up to now ASEAN has followed a consensual style of decision-making that means onemember can block progress on which other members have agreed. Now, under the Charter,ASEAN has the possibility of making decisions by majority. The problem is how to makebinding agreements and get all members to implement what has been agreed. The failure tomaintain a working consensus in ASEAN would harm the Association’s development. Forexample, several influential Indonesians have become increasingly critical about ASEANinaction. They have proposed that regional leadership be placed in the hands of the six Asiancountries who are members of the Group of 20.
Thayer Consultancy
ABN # 65 648 097 123
Background Briefing:Vietnam’s Role as ASEANChair in 2010Carlyle A. ThayerOctober 22,, 2009
[client name withheld]1- Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung will officially take over the ASEANpresidency in 2010 from Thailand (in Hua Hin) this week. In your view, what would be themain challenges and opportunities (both political and economic benefits) brought about toVietnam by this mission? How will this position affect Vietnam’s voice in international forumsas well as in bilateral relations with big partners including the US and China?ANSWER: Vietnam will assume the ASEAN Chair at a very important turning point in theAssociation’s development. The ASEAN Charter has come into effect and some of itsprovisions need elaboration. Vietnam has stated that ASEAN is its top foreign policy priority.As ASEAN Chair Vietnam will have to use all of its diplomatic skills to ensure that consensusprevails and that ASEAN moves forward. The question of Myanmar’s plans to hold electionsin 2010 is a case in point. Several original members of ASEAN, as well as democratic statesin the international community, would like to see Aung San Suu Kyi freed from house arrest, aprocess of national reconciliation, and free and fair elections. If there is no real progress onthe Myanmar issue it will continue to affect ASEAN’s cohesion and its relations withdemocratic great powers.As from next year, Vietnam as ASEAN Chair will be the focal point for diplomacy by the greatpowers. Vietnam will have to oversee the expanding relationship with China while dealing withthe return of the United States to multilateral diplomacy. As Vietnam has demonstrated by itspresidency of the United Nations Security Council it has the diplomatic skills to maneuverbetween the great powers for the benefit of ASEAN.There are a number of proposals on the table to upgrade regional security architecture.Australia and the new government in Japan have both tabled proposals for an Asia Pacificcommunity and East Asia Community respectively. Vietnam will have to use all its diplomaticskills to ensure that ASEAN is not marginalized if any of these proposals comes to fruition.On the economic front, Vietnam can play a positive role by signing the ASEAN-India FreeTrade Agreement (FTA) in goods once India recognizes Vietnam as a market economy. ThenVietnam should play a major role in negotiating with India a mutually acceptable opening ofup markets in investments and services with a FTA.2- Do you have any recommendations for the government of Vietnam to make its upcomingpresidency a success, particularly in the context that ASEAN bloc is striving for measures toreach its target of building an ASEAN community by 2015?ANSWER: Vietnam was one of the early countries in ASEAN to make proposals for the socio-economic pillar of the ASEAN Community to be realized by 2020. Vietnam can continue toplay a leadership role in developing this pillar by making ASEAN a more people-orientatedorganization. Vietnam will be handed the “hot potato” of implementing the terms of referencefor the ASEAN Inter-governmental Commission on Human Rights. Some members want thenew body to promote the protection of human rights, others see this as interference in theirinternal affairs. Vietnam will have to find an acceptable middle ground.
Thayer Consultancy
ABN # 65 648 097 123

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