Asean must stay united and credible: Shanmugam

ASEAN has to remain united and credible in order to be the linchpin of stability and prosperity in the region, Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam said, as the regional organisation marks the 47th year of its founding.

"To remain in the driver's seat, Asean must stay united and credible," Mr Shanmugam told some 300 diplomats from Asean and other countries at the Asean Day commemoration yesterday.

One of the ways to achieve that is integration through the Asean Economic Community (AEC), which is expected to be in place by the end of next year, said Mr Shanmugam.

"AEC will integrate and transform Asean into a single regional market," said the minister, noting that 80 per cent of the measures in the AEC blueprint were already complete.

Further economic growth to the bloc of 609 million people will come from the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership among the 10 Asean member states and six major trading partners, as well as another free trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

In politics and diplomacy, Mr Shanmugam said "existing Asean-led mechanisms... have played and will continue to play an important role in managing regional complexities".

Mr Shanmugam also spoke on the need to forge a stronger sense of common identity among people in Asean nations.

He awarded a prize to 19-year-old NSman Khairul Azri Uthli, who won the Singapore chapter of the inaugural Asean Youth Competition on Arts and Human Rights. The competition is one of the bloc's community-building activities.

Mr Khairul's work, called Born Without Worry, features a baby nestled in batik and paddy field motifs. It is, he explained, "how I envision life would be like when the concept of human rights is fully realised".

This article was first published on August 26, 2014.
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