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.
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