Yokohama, Japan, 11 November 2010
First and foremost, allow me to thank APEC and the Government of Japan for the opportunity extended to the ASEAN Secretariat to once again participate in this esteemed APEC Ministerial Meeting and present to the APEC Ministers the significant developments in ASEAN.
Progress on AEC
I am pleased to report that ASEAN has made further headway and remarkable progress in implementing the ASEAN Charter and the Roadmap for an ASEAN Community by 2015. At the start of this year, we witnessed the realisation of the ASEAN Free Trade Area for the original six members – Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Brunei and Singapore Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Viet Nam are committed to join in 2015. At the recent 17th ASEAN Summit, ASEAN Member States signed the Eighth Package of Commitments under the ASEAN Framework Agreement on Services, which contain additional services sub-sectors scheduled for liberalisation and enhanced thresholds.
The ASEAN Leaders had extensive, open and fruitful discussions on various issues under the theme “Towards the ASEAN Community: From Vision to Action” at the 17th ASEAN Summit and Related Summits held on 28 October 2010 in Ha Noi, Vietnam.
Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity
Cognisant of the importance of a fully integrated and well connected ASEAN in building the ASEAN Community, ASEAN Leaders endorsed the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity at the 17th Summit. The Master Plan which was developed with the cooperation of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA), United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), and the World Bank, identifies key strategies and actions to enhance the connection of the region in three dimensions: physical, institutional, and people-to-people connectivity. Enhanced connectivity between ASEAN Member States will encourage growth; facilitate economies of agglomeration and integrated production networks; enhance intra-regional trade; and attract investments.
Strategies in enhancing physical connectivity include the completion of hard infrastructure projects such as the ASEAN Highway Network and the Singapore Kunming Rail Link. Institutional connectivity, meanwhile, comprises improvements to soft infrastructure such as strengthening institutional arrangements to liberalise the movements of goods, services and skilled professionals across the borders. Strategies to intensify people-to-people interactions will be implemented through culture, education, and tourism initiatives.
ASEAN has also made satisfactory progress in implementing the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) Blueprint, particularly in enhancing response to climate change and disasters; developing human resources to sustain economic recovery; coping with global challenges; enhancing cultural cooperation towards creating ASEAN awareness and building ASEAN Community.
Recognising the significance of enhancing the welfare of ASEAN people in general and of women and children in particular, ASEAN established a Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Women and Children and adopted the Hanoi Declaration on the Enhancement of Welfare and Development of ASEAN Women and Children at the 17th ASEAN Summit.
Other initiatives in ensuring sustainable development include the drafting of the ASEAN Plan of Action on Climate Change as well as the ASEAN Instrument on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers. The ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Centre) based in Jakarta, Indonesia is expected to commence operations soon. The Centre aims to serve as an effective mechanism to reduce disaster losses in lives and in the social, economic and environmental assets as well as to jointly respond to disaster at national and regional level. Meanwhile, ASEAN Member States continue to enhance cooperation in education and public health.
Russia and USA’s participation in EAS
I am also pleased to inform that Russia and the United States of America have been formally invited to participate in the East Asia Summit next year.
ASEAN and APEC
We note the similarity on priorities in both APEC and ASEAN, particularly in promoting regional integration, facilitating trade, eliminating trade barriers and ensuring sustainable development. Common views are also reflected on multilateral fora, in particular the importance of an early conclusion to the Doha round with a comprehensive and balanced outcome. The ASEAN Leaders also called for the removal of all forms of trade protectionism so that our markets will remain open for the continued economic growth of the region.
In essence, the common goals shared by both APEC and ASEAN and our concerted efforts will significantly contribute towards building a fully integrated and economically sustainable region.