MANILA, Nov. 18 (Xinhua) -- Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have adopted a number of declarations and statements meant to enhance cooperation in various areas to build an integrated, stable and prosperous community in the fast-growing region.
Philippine Rodrigo Duterte said at the end of the two-day 31st ASEAN summit and related meetings on Tuesday that leaders noted the importance of staying the course in economic integration, both at the level of ASEAN Economic Community and integration with its external economic partners.
He said all discussions point to the realization of an integrated, peaceful, stable and resilient ASEAN community that actively takes a leading role as a regional and global player in advancing political-security cooperation, economic growth, and socio-cultural development.
Duterte, who chaired the meetings, said he had "engaging, productive, and fruitful discussions" with other ASEAN leaders on ASEAN's "continuing work in community-building and the implementation of the blueprints and work plans toward the realization of the ASEAN vision 2025.
ASEAN leaders held successive summits with the leaders of ASEAN's dialogue partners, including the ASEAN Plus Three with China, Japan and South Korea, and the East Asia Summit (EAS) involving China, Japan, South Korea, the United States, Russia, India, Australia and New Zealand.
At these meetings, Duterte said leaders exchanged views on regional and international issues, including terrorism and the rise of violent extremism, stressing the importance of cooperation in addressing issues that affect peace, security, and prosperity of the region.
ASEAN COMMITTED TO PEOPLE-CENTERED DEVELOPMENT
The ASEAN leaders signed the ASEAN Consensus on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers that strengthens the social protection, access to justice, and ensures humane and fair treatment of the growing numbers of migrant workers in the region.
They believed the document will help establish a framework for cooperation on migrant workers in the region and contribute to the ASEAN community building process.
The migrant workers contribute to the societies and economies of both receiving and sending states of ASEAN.
The document provides the opportunity for ASEAN members to develop an instrument that establishes a framework for cooperation in safeguarding the interests and welfare of hundreds of thousands of migrant workers in the region.
Among its many important provisions, the document upholds fair treatment of migrant workers with respect to gender and nationality, provides for visitation rights by family members, prohibits confiscation of passports and overcharging of placement or recruitment fees, protects against violence and sexual harassment in the workplace, regulates recruiters for better protection of workers, and respects their right to fair and appropriate remuneration and benefits and their right to join trade union and association.
Like all ASEAN agreements, the implementation of the document will be subject to the respective laws of each ASEAN member states.
ASEAN countries are significant senders of migrants globally, but also important destinations for migrants from the region. Large intra-ASEAN migration flows are the result of significant diversity in economic development within the region.
CHINA, ASEAN AGREE TO START COC CONSULTATIONS
China and ASEAN said at the 20th ASEAN-China leaders summit that they would start negotiating details of a code of conduct (COC) in the South China Sea.
In a chairman's statement, ASEAN and China said both sides agreed to "officially commence substantive negotiations on the text of the COC" after foreign ministers of ASEAN and China adopted in August the Framework of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.
The framework will serve as the basis for the COC talks next year when the joint working group and senior officials sit down to negotiate the text.
"We look forward to subsequent convening of the 23rd ASEAN-China joint working group meeting on the implementation of the DOC in Vietnam in early 2018," the statement read, referring to the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea that ASEAN and China inked in 2002.
China and ASEAN also agreed to cooperate in maintaining peace, stability and freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea.
Also at the ASEAN-China summit, China reaffirmed its support for ASEAN to attain its plan to become a full-fledged economic community. Leaders said at the summit that the strategic partnership between ASEAN and China "has grown rapidly to become one of ASEAN's most substantive dialogue partners."
As strategic partners, the leaders said ASEAN and China continue to further deepen cooperation in all areas in the EAS, ASEAN Regional Forum and ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting-Plus.
China remains ASEAN's largest trading partner, according to the statement. Moreover, China continued to be ASEAN's fourth largest external sources of foreign direct investment (FDI).
China and ASEAN also vowed to further deepen their cooperation on infrastructure connectivity.
"There is great potential for further deepening the cooperation on infrastructure connectivity which would significantly facilitate the development of economic and trade relations, crucial support for realizing the sustainable development goal, as well as new boost into global and regional economic development," the leaders said.
Both sides are looking at potential projects in areas such as railways, highways, port and harbors, airports, power, and communications, for better business and investment environment, vowing to support ongoing efforts to explore synergies between ASEAN's master plan of connectivity with that of China's Belt and Road Initiative.
ASEAN, DIALOGUE COUNTRIES VOW TO ENHANCE COOPERATION
In view of the large potential of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) to promote global trade and growth, ASEAN and dialogue countries urged RCEP participating countries "to exercise their best endeavour to swiftly and successfully achieve a modern, comprehensive, high-quality and mutually-beneficial RCEP agreement."
Ten ASEAN leaders and their six trading partners - Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand - have reaffirmed their commitment to wrap up the 16-nation regional trade pact by next year.
At their first ever RCEP summit, the 16 RCEP leaders discussed the way forward for the earnest conclusion of RCEP talks.
"We hereby instruct our ministers and negotiators to intensify efforts in 2018 to bring the RCEP negotiations to conclusion, and resolve to ensure they have the necessary support to achieve this outcome," the RCEP leaders said in a joint statement.
Duterte, who chaired the RCEP summit, said the RCEP leaders "expressed our resolve to realize a substantial conclusion of negotiations on this economic instrument."
RCEP "is not simply another trade agreement but a trade agreement that could provide the size and scale to unleash new growth potential and write the new rules of the game of the international trade order," Duterte said.
ASEAN leaders stressed the need to clear the hurdles to move the trade talks forward amid "rising protectionism and anti-globalization sentiments."
"While this negotiation continues to be a complex and challenging task, we reaffirmed our commitment to achieve a modern, comprehensive, high-quality and mutually beneficial economic partnership agreement negotiated as a single undertaking that would support an open and enabling trade and investment environment in the region," the leaders said.
The 16 participating countries account for almost half of the world population, 31.6 percent of global output, 28.5 percent of global trade and a fifth of the global foreign direct investment inflows in 2016, according to ASEAN data.
The 10-member ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
The conclusion of RCEP will lead to the creation of the world's largest trade bloc, covering nearly one-third of the global economy in 2016, and underscored the potential for the RCEP to serve as an engine for global growth.
Moreover, RCEP will expand the ASEAN market from more than 630 million people to 3.5 billion.
Launched in November 2012, RCEP targeted to cover trade-in goods and services, investments, economic and technical cooperation, intellectual property rights, competition policy, and dispute settlement, among others. It is seen as a good platform for the region to negotiate with other regional blocks.
Against the backdrop of growing protectionism and anti-globalization sentiments across the globe, ASEAN remains resilient and dynamic in forging ahead with regional economic integration that is a key facet of the ASEAN Economic Community.
Philippine Trade Secretary Lopez said RCEP is seen as "the next logical step in ASEAN's regional integration."
"By bringing it and its partner economies under a single, ambitious high quality trade agreement, RCEP further reinforces the Southeast Asia region as the economic center of gravity," Lopez said.