Here are all the talking points made at this year’s ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ meeting

Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan speaking at the opening ceremony.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The 51st ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) took place in Singapore from July 30 to August 4. Topics discussed ranged from tourism to security, and ASEAN’s 10 dialogue partners were present at the Meeting.

Here are the key points which Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan made during the meeting.

  1. ASEAN aims to create the world’s largest trading bloc by the end of this year.

ASEAN ministers pledged in June to “substantially conclude” the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) by the end of this year. Comprising the 10 ASEAN countries and six FTA partners, the bloc will account for one-third of world GDP and is expected to protect ASEAN’s trade openness in the face of rising tensions between the US, China, EU and Canada – though PM Lee said he did not “ expect the negotiations to be easy”, given rising nationalist sentiment in the region.

  1. Cruise and aviation agreements will help promote travel.

ASEAN could soon be signing the world’s first inter-bloc aviation agreement agreement with the EU, making air travel easier between member states of the groupings, while the ASEAN Declaration on Cruise Tourism is expected to push the bloc toward its goal of becoming a cruise destination.

  1. Digital initiatives will get a boost.

The ASEAN Smart Cities Network, comprising 26 cities, has already signed five deals with private companies to start developing a common smart city framework within the region.

ASEAN might also sign an e-commerce agreement among its member states to facilitate digitalisation of trade procedures, and Singapore plans to upgrade three ASEAN integration centres in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos to share capacity-building knowledge.

  1. ASEAN countries are stepping up cybersecurity.

This comes after leaders committed to creating a secure cyberspace in April. A counter-terrorism symposium and cybersecurity workshop will be held in Singapore later this year to encourage inter-state dialogue on how to combat the root cause of terrorism, violent extremism, and radicalism.

Singapore also announced it is stepping up cybersecurity defenses  in 11 critical sectors, including aviation, healthcare and water supply, following the hacking of a national healthcare database last month.

  1. Singapore will promote ASEAN arts

The country will hold an exhibition of significant works of art from each member state, and promote ASEAN’s best music and song writing to international audiences in November. Hyperplay, ASEANs first-ever e-sports and music festival will be held in Singapore this weekend.