(File pix) Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Chair this year, Singapore will do its best to take the bloc forward, pledged Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

SINGAPORE: As the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Chair this year, Singapore will do its best to take the bloc forward, pledged Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Singapore has chosen two ideas namely “resilience” and “innovation” as themes for its Chairmanship.

“We hope during Singapore’s term as Chair, we will start some Asean projects that will strengthen our collective resilience against common threats such as terrorism, cybercrime, and climate change.

“We also hope to promote schemes that capitalise on innovation, that help Asean economies to use technology, to make us a more dynamic and connected community.

“Through all these, we aim to make Asean a better home for our future generations,” he said.

Lee said this in his speech at the launch of Singapore’s chairmanship of Asean 2018 at the Experience Asean carnival at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, Friday evening.

His speech was made available on the website of Singapore Prime Minister’s Office late Friday.

“We have a full agenda ahead. We will work with the other member states, and with Asean’s dialogue partners, to make 2018 a meaningful year for Asean,” said Lee.

According to Lee, Asean is not just a security anchor for the region.

“We have built a community that also cooperates on economic and social issues. We support one another through difficult times, for example, the Asian Financial Crisis, the Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak and natural disasters.

“We work together to solve common problems and improve the lives of our peoples,” he said.

Together, Lee said, the 10 economies make up a dynamic and attractive group.

Asean’s economic community has opened up many job and business opportunities, he said.

“Singapore companies have benefited. With the Asean Free Trade Area, Singapore companies can reach Asean’s market of 630 million people – 100 times Singapore’s own population and more.

“And of course, Singaporeans also benefit from the freer flow of goods and services. In our supermarkets we can buy Thai rice, Vietnamese coffee, Filipino dried mangoes, Indonesian keropok and Malaysian Musang King durians, all at very affordable prices especially durians right now.

“And with many direct flights between our countries, millions of Singaporeans travel to other parts of Southeast Asia every year, for work and leisure,” he said.

Asean was formed in 1967 and the 10 Asean member countries take turns to chair the organisation.

The last time Singapore chaired Asean was in 2007. - Bernama

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