by Liu Tian, Zheng Jie
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Oct. 8 (Xinhua) -- Under the theme of "Our People, Our Future Together," the 23rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and related summits will be held on Wednesday and Thursday, marking the last multilateral opportunity for Asian-Pacific leaders this year to discuss the process of regional cooperation.
ASEAN now is gradually demonstrating its potential to be a dominant player in the East Asian cooperation process, as the summits, not only involved all leaders of the ASEAN members and of ASEAN's dialogue partners, but also attracted those from Russia and the United States.
The 10-nation bloc has set the year of 2015 as its due date to accomplish an economic community after its over-four-decade developments, from low-level cooperation within the Southeast Asian region to current high-level mutual beneficial cooperation with powers outside the region in widened fields and through multiplied channels.
As of now, under the ASEAN Charter, the bloc is becoming an important regional inter-governmental organization and its unique path of development and cooperation has been widely recognized by the international community.
Although ASEAN has unveiled its ambitious plan, it, meanwhile, has to address major challenges as narrowing development gap between member countries, enhancing regional connectivity and cooperation,improving trade and investment environment, as well as its international competitiveness, so as to forming a long- expected single market and production base by 2015.
Le Luong Minh, ASEAN Secretary-general, however, said at the 22nd ASEAN Summit that the economic community has finished 77.5 percent, while the rest 22.5 percent is the most difficult parts for the bloc to fulfill and there are only two years left for ASEAN to meet the deadline.
One of the prior ways for ASEAN to achieve its blueprint by the year of 2015, according to analysts, is to enhance cohesion among the 10 members so as to better cope with internal conflicts and divergences in an effort to pave a way of widen cooperation and prosperity.
At the same time, besides ASEAN's own efforts, its dialogue partners also help the bloc to realize its blueprint.
Currently, the East Asian region has witnessed the establishments of ASEAN free trade area and such trade areas respectively between ASEAN and three major regional countries, namely China, Japan and South Korea.
Under the background of ongoing negotiations of a trilateral free trade area among the three northeast Asian counties, ASEAN goes further and has raised a framework of "Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership(RCEP)," with relevant talks already kicked off.
Analysts said that RCEP, among other cooperative mechanisms in the East Asian region, even in the entire Asia-Pacific, will be the most operable one that will better meet regional realities.
If the partnership could be formed by the year of 2015, they went on to say, it will significantly promote regional trade liberalization and facilitation and would lay the foundation for an Asian-Pacific free trade area.
Meanwhile, this year also marks the 10th anniversary of China- ASEAN strategic partnership and bilateral cooperation featured by the China-ASEAN free trade area has achieved fruitful results as two-way trade amount surged five times as much as a decade ago and ASEAN is the third largest trading partner of China for the third straight year.
China, no doubted a most important economy in the East Asian region, has created with ASEAN a "golden decade" of bilateral cooperation and the two sides also obtain the confidence to create a "diamond decade," according to Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.
It is foreseeable that an upgraded China-ASEAN free trade area would be a main focus on the 16th China-ASEAN summit in a move to mull promotion of bilateral connection, sub-regional cooperation and maritime cooperation, as well as people-to-people exchanges.
Experts said that the development of the "golden decade" has accumulated experiences for the future "diamond decade" and an upgraded bilateral free trade area will demonstrate a jump of the China-ASEAN cooperation, which will also positively contribute to East Asian integrity.
In fact, tracing back to history, it has showed that the development of East Asia is based on multilateral cooperation with complementation, respect of diversity and harmonious existence between ASEAN and other regional countries and the spirit should be upheld by all regional countries.
To this end, seeking cooperation and development will still be the main theme of the ASEAN Summit and Related Summits and only with focuses on the issue of development, could ASEAN achieve its ambitious target and could the East Asian cooperation embrace a more brilliant future.