- Regional integration is important to address socio-economic issues, says H.E. Dr Thaksin Shinawatra, the former Prime Minister of Thailand
You created the Asia Cooperation Dialogue in 2002. Why is it more necessary now than ever to believe in the power of tolerance and inclusiveness to address the challenges the continent faces?
The need for Asia to come together has never been greater to address the socio-economic challenges it faces. Today, Asia is the only continent that does not have a continent-wise forum. In Africa, they have the African Union, Europe has successfully forged ahead with its own union and so has Latin America.
Asia remains the world’s fastest-growing economic region and will continue to be the driver of global growth during the decades ahead. It is also the cradle of the world’s earliest civilisations, dating back thousands of years.
Forums like the ABLF enhance dialogue platforms with the country’s strategic partners while strengthening cooperation.
Against this backdrop of seeming abundance and wealth, it is disconcerting that, in much of Asia, our peoples still remain mired in poverty. It is perturbing to me that great potential exists in our region and yet they remained largely untapped. This was my motivation behind the Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD), which aims to promote interdependence among Asian countries by identifying common strengths and opportunities to improve the quality of life for Asian people. The future of regional integration is really up to leadership of Asian countries.
Is regional integration achievable? How can Asian economies come together to reach their full potential?
Yes, although it may take time. Each country must place equal importance on this concept. There must be an understanding between the leaders across nations. At the end of the day, it is all about personal relationships and the same is reflected in the equations between countries as well.
Asian countries must work together and build a strategy based on the philosophy of give-and-take. For example, if Thailand wants to build a strategy with the Middle East, then we must plan what we can do for each other based on our areas of expertise. Maybe Thailand can provide healthcare services in return for oil security or something on those lines.
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