SINGAPORE, Leaders from 10 member states of Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) will meet and exchange views on regional and international issues, forge consensus and provide direction to build a resilient and innovative ASEAN at its 32nd summit to be held here on Saturday.

Singapore is the chair of ASEAN in 2018, and its chairmanship tagline is "Resilient and Innovative." The two words encapsulates the vision for ASEAN to be united in the face of growing uncertainties in the global strategic landscape.

ASEAN faces increasingly complex strategic challenges, including competition between superpowers, trade friction, terrorism, cyberthreats and natural disasters, said Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore's Minister for Foreign Affairs, in his article published at local media The Business Times on Thursday.

The foreign minister said the digital revolution has also fundamentally disrupted the way ASEAN people live, work, play, communicate, mobilize and organize their societies. Thus, ASEAN needs to be innovative and adaptive to remain united and relevant in the face of these challenges.

The regional and international issues that will be discussed at Saturday's summit are likely to have relations with these challenges. One of these issues could be an ASEAN Smart Cities Network (ASCN), which, according to Balakrishnan, is "one of the key deliverables for the upcoming summit."

The foreign minister said the ASCN will be a collaborative platform for member cities to exchange best practices and urban solutions, as well as to catalyze bankable smart city projects.

"Our goal is to leverage technology to improve the lives and livelihood of our people," he said.

The cooperation with external partners could be an important issue to be discussed at the summit. Because Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in his opening remarks at the ASEAN Summit working dinner on Friday evening that the leaders "have a full agenda ahead, both within ASEAN as well as our external partners."

Lee added that ASEAN would pursue the initiatives under the three pillars and make progress towards the goal of "One Vision, One Identity, One Community." He said Singapore hopes to work with ASEAN partners to tackle shared concerns.

These concerns include strengthening ASEAN's collective resilience against growing trans-boundary threats, such as terrorism, climate change and cyber security; and making use of technology and innovation as source of growth and development to improve people's lives.

"We hope to prompt a productive discussion and develop a consensus on an overall approach, as crystalized in our Vision Statement, to take ASEAN forward," said Lee.

"We also hope to put forth tangible initiatives that will contribute to a resilient and innovative ASEAN."

The prime minister said the ASEAN leaders will discuss their shared ideas over the next two days to take on the challenges as well as the concrete steps to realize their vision.

ASEAN's three community pillars include the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community, ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) and ASEAN Political-Security Community.

As for the ASEAN Economic Community, Singapore's objective for its chairmanship this year is to deepen regional connectivity to position ASEAN as the region for increasingly seamless economic activity and growing opportunities, especially in the areas of innovation and the digital economy, the Business Times quoted several Singaporean ministries as saying.

Economic issues in five key areas could be discussed at the summit as they are the focus. These issues include promoting innovation and e-commerce, improving trade facilitation, deepening services and investment integration, cultivating a helpful regulatory environment, and progressing ASEAN's external relation.

Source: NAM News Network