In light of the difficulties in setting up a strong and fair legal framework, ocean exploitation is likely inevitable. ASEAN and China must build on the platform’s long-term potential and unlock the platform’s capabilities that are still underdeveloped for regions that rely heavily on the marine ecosystem. The partnership between the two parties was established at the ASEAN Summit in October 2021 in order to respond to this issue. The ASEAN Leaders’ Blue Economy Declaration is a manifestation of the ASEAN-China Partnership on Blue Economy. This shows a strong commitment to promoting sustainable development, particularly in the marine economy, as well as an effort to strengthen multilateral cooperation.
To generate a broader critical measure on this issue, the Network of ASEAN-China Think-Tanks held o Working Group Meeting on the mainstreaming of the ASEAN Blue Economy to Accelerate Post-Pandemic Recovery. Co-hosted by NACT China which is represented by the China Foreign Affairs University and NACT Indonesia which is represented by ASEAN Studies Center Universitas Gadjah Mada, the working group meeting took place on Tuesday, June 7, 2022, through an online platform meeting in light of the current Covid-19 pandemic.
A representative of the blue economy expert from each of the 10 ASEAN member states and China represented by the NACT country coordinators have been invited to attend the meeting. Meeting participants are expected to gain an understanding of the Blue Economy and what it means for ASEAN member states and China, as well as identify best practices from each NACT representative, the main goals of this working group meeting. There are a few other objectives for the meeting, which include identifying possible strategic plans that ASEAN and China can use as the foundation for mutually beneficial cooperation.
The meeting was opened by the welcoming remarks from the Executive Director of ASEAN Studies Center Universitas Gadjah Mada (Dr. Dafri Agussalim) as the country coordinator for NACT Indonesia. In his remarks, Dr. Dafri highlighted
“The importance of this meeting to be conducted is not only to gather and exchange constructive ideas, but also functioned as a platform to generate long term solutions on some critical issues surrounding the region, and most importantly on the cooperation with one of ASEAN dialogue partner, China”
To facilitate each representative and manage the discussion is conducted with a constructive and effective flow, the meeting was separated into three-panel sessions in accordance with the three pillars of ASEAN Community Vision 2025. The first-panel session raised the theme of “The Politics and Security of the Sea under the Blue Economy” under the Political and Economic Cooperation pillar. Moderated by Dr. Yang Yue, a Deputy Director of the Institute of Asian Studies, China Foreign Affairs University, the session was managed to feature a representative from NACT Lao PDR, represented by Ms. Haknilan Inthalath that delivered a presentation entitled “ASEAN-China Partnership in Blue Economy Development to Accelerate Post-pandemic Recovery”. Continued by a presentation from Prof. Su Hao, a representative of NACT China. He delivered a presentation entitled “Deepening the China-ASEAN Partnership on Blue Economy by Increasing Political Conditions and Consolidating Security Foundation”.
During the discussion, both presentations elicited strong reactions from the audience in terms of politics and maritime security in the context of blue economy cooperation. Mr. Than Tun, the representative of the NACT Myanmar from the Institute of Sciences and International Security Myanmar observed and respond to the issue by recalling the ASEAN-China pledges to promote the economic growth, in this matter, the political and security approach should be determined as the important aspects to support this implementation. The first panel of the meeting was closed with the discussion and concluded with the need for ASEAN and China to take joint action for those challenges (piracy, illegal fishing, and pollution), not only individual actions by certain countries.
The second panel of the meeting raised a theme on the pillar of Economic Cooperation, entitled “Economic Development and Technological Advancement”, and was moderated by Ms. Yulida Nuraini Santoso, M.Sc, a Managing Director of ASEAN Studies Center Universitas Gadjah Mada. The second-panel session started with the presentation from Dr. Li Feng the other representative of NACT China, who delivered a presentation entitled “Blue Economy to Boom Economy”. Continued by Dr. I Made Andi Arsana the representative of NACT Indonesia presented his thoughts on “Geospatial Clarity towards Blue Economy: Challenges in Maritime Zone and Boundary Definition for Effective Utilization of Ocean Resources”. Dr. Lim Tai Wei from NACT Singapore as the next panelist explained his research on Singaporeans’ perspective on the economic development and technological advancement in the blue economy cooperation. Next, NACT Thailand was represented by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Thamasak Yeemin from Ramkamhaeng University presented the perspective of Thailand regarding the technological advancement for the blue economy development. Representatives from NACT Vietnam, Dr. Le Trung Kien, and NACT Cambodia, Amb. Pou Sothirak, and the Cambodia Institute for Cooperation and Peace’s Dr. Henry Chan, continued the discussion by explaining their points of view and perspectives.
Last but not least, Dr. Falikul Isbakh from the University of Gadjah Mada’s Department of Sociology moderated the final panel discussion. In the context of blue economy cooperation, the third-panel session addressed the socio-cultural issue of “Maintaining Environmental Conservation.” “Enhancing ASEAN-China Cooperation on Marine Environmental Protection: A Perspective from the Philippines” was delivered by NACT Philippines representative Mr. Edcel John Ibara, followed by Prof. Li Xia, the third NACT China representative. “Committing Science to Sustainable Resource Management” was the final presentation given by Prof. Dato’ Noraieni Mokhtar of the NACT Malaysia at this NACT Working Group Meeting 2022. There was a productive discussion between the panelists about the opportunities for ASEAN and China in the context of blue economy cooperation before concluding the panel session.
Professor Guo Yanjun, Director of the Institute of Asian Studies at the China Foreign Affairs University, delivered the closing remarks to the NACT Working Group Meeting 2022. According to Professor Guo Yanjun, ASEAN and China are taking advantage of the many opportunities to develop and collaborate on an economic partnership in the blue economy as a way to speed up the post-pandemic recovery process. Professor Guo Yanjun hopes that ASEAN-China cooperation on the blue economy will be one of the most vigorous and promising cooperations in ASEAN Community Vision 2025’s three pillars.
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