Opening Statement By The Honourable Llyod Axworthy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada


Datuk Seri, Ladies and Gentlemen!

This is an auspicious year for both Canada and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. It marks the 30th anniversary of ASEAN and the 20th anniversary of Canada’s formal dialogue relationship with ASEAN, although Canada’s longstanding cooperation with the countries of Southeast Asia, of course, goes back well before the dates commemorated by these two important anniversaries. It is estimated that to date CIDA has provided a total of C$77 million to ASEAN directly and more than C$80 million to other regional development initiatives. In addition, we are actively involved in bilateral development cooperation activities with five ASEAN members: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

1997 also marks the 40th anniversary of Malaysia’s independence and Canada already had a High Commissioner established in Kuala Lumpur to witness that historic event. Let me take this opportunity to congratulate Malaysia, the host country for this year’s ASEAN meetings, on its impressive accomplishments of the past forty years. Let me also congratulate you, Datuk Seri, on the well-deserved honour you have recently been awarded.

The 20th anniversary of the ASEAN-Canada Dialogue was marked by the holding of four events in Montreal in May: the meeting of the ASEAN-Canada Business Council (ACBC) of the ASEAN-ISIS – Canada Bilateral, the Eleventh Meeting of the Canada-ASEAN Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) and the photographic exhibition “Eyes on ASEAN” organised by Marina Mahathir, the daughter of Malaysia’s distinguished Prime Minister. It was truly ASEAn week in Montreal !.

Datuk Seri, you will recall that when I wrote to you on 31 October last year, I suggested that we needed to revitalise the ASEAN-Canada relationship. I was pleased to note that the Joint Cooperation Committee or JCC meeting in Montreal adopted Canada’s proposal for the formation of a Working Group to analyse the future direction of the Canada-ASEAN Dialogue, to review development cooperation and to take stock of the vast twenty years. Canadian officials look forward to cooperating in this Working Group with officials of the Philippines as the next coordinator of the ASEAN-Canada Dialogue. Malaysia has played a valuable role as ASEAN Country Coordinator for the Dialogue with Canada over the past three years. I thank you, Datuk Seri, for your supportive and guiding role in this regard.

1997 has been designated as Canada’s Year of Asia Pacific (CYAP). It began with the visit of Prime Minister Chretien, the provincial premiers and over 400 business represntatives to three Asian countries : Korea, Thailand and the Philippines. It will end with APEC Economic Leaders Meeting in Vancouver in November. In between, the CYAP calendar will include close to 500 separate events focussed on business and cultural links between Canada and Asia Pacific. Five APEC ministerial meetings and related business fora are also part of the program.

Canada’s Year of Asia Pacific is a national effort, from coast to coast, touching communities large and small. We want to ensure that Canadians in central and Atlantic Canada, and not just those lying on the west coast, learn about our growing ties with the region.

We have included youth in as many events as possible of Canada’s Year of Asia Pacific and APEC, because it is particularly young Canadians who need to understand the future importance of Asia Pacific. In this regard, I wish to acknowledge your contribution, Datuk Seri, to the creation of a major Youth Conference, ASIA CONNECTS, to take place in Winnipeg, Canada in September. The genesis of this Conference arose from our discussions in Jakarta during the last year’s PMC. I am very pleased that you will join me in opening this ASIA CONNECTS Conference.

May I take this opportunity to mention Canada’s SCHOOLNET program, a set of internet-based educational services and resources which enable the youth to become more employable. This network connects all schools and libraries across Canada. Canada is working with officials from Malaysia on a transfer of technology and intellectual property relating to this network. Such programs exist with China, Mexico and South Africa already. This exciting SCHOOLNET program may well interest all of our partners in ASEAN.

We expect that Canada’s Year of Asia Pacific will leave a lasting legacy of strengthened toes to Asia Pacific, including an APEC agenda which continues to emphasis real benefits for the business community in each of our countries. In Canada, we are confident that it is helping to improve knowledge and understanding of the region, particularly amongst target business, cultural and youth groups.

On behalf of Canada and the Canadian International Development Agency, I am pleased to be able to highlight the commitment put forth by ASEAN member countries and Canada in establishing key regional institutions. We should like to state our appreciation for the important role ASEAN and the host countries play in the future sustainability of these institutions.

The Canada-ASEAN relationship was originally that of donor and recipient. More recently it has evolved into a trade and economic partnership, as a result of the rapid growth of the ASEAN economies. The expansion of ASEAN membership will call for a new approaches in regional economic, social and development cooperation and dialogue. It will also lead to a greater focus on equity issues, and the increasing realisation of the vital economic contribution of women.

I note that Canada has discussed with ASFAN a new way of working with ASEAN partners through co-financing projects and partnerships between the private sector, government and civil society. New forms of cooperation are emerging that build on the interests and strengths of both ASEAN countries and Canada, Brunei, Singapore and Thailand have started working with us in this regard for the benefit of ASEAN members.

Canada’s foreign policy highlights the critical importance of sustainable development towards a future that sees the reduction of poverty and a more secure, equitable, and prosperous world. Our approach is practical, constructive, results-oriented and partnership based.

Canada recognize that it is the people of developing countries, their organizations and their governments that play the central role and hold prime responsibility for achieving progress. Canadians willingly play an important, supportive role.

Canada, through CIDA, was pleased to be a sponsor of the Second ASEAN Congress held in Kuala Lumpur last week (July 21 to 23). The Congress was organized by ISIS Malaysia on behalf of ASEAN Institute of Strategic and international Studies (ISIS). The theme of the Congress was “ASEAN Towards 2020″. The Congress marked the 3Oth anniversary of ASEAN and a vision was articulated for the next 30 years including, long term strategic issues of ASEAN’s political and security agenda. Such joint efforts by our academics, in a true Track II spirit, deserve our commendation and support.

ASEAN-CANADA PROJECTS FOR HANDOVER

Today I should like to celebrate and acknowledge the accomplishments of three ASEAN-Canada projects and formally hand-over these projects to the respective regional institutions. The three projects are : the ASEAN Institute of Forest Management Project, the ASEAN Forest Tree Seed Centre Project, and the ASEAN-Canada Fisheries Post-Harvest Technology Project. The ASEAN Institute of Forest Management,, with its headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, worked in cooperation with the British Columbia Ministry of Forestry. We are pleased to note that over the past twelve years of CIDA support, valued at C$17.4 million, AIFM has provided ASEAN member countries with useful, hightech solutions to tropical management issues. The establishment of the ASEAN Forest Tree Seed Centre in Thailand in 1981 was the first Canadian-supported ASEAN institutional initiative and was opened by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in 1982. CIDA support has been valued at C$11.7 million. The Canada-ASEAN Fisheries Post-Harvest Technology Project with regional centres in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore has been supported by CIDA for fourteen years with a contribution valued at C$10.6 million.

Of great importance to the success of the project was the series of information packages on prerequisite requirements for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points [referred to as HACCP system] produced by Malaysia. The successful introduction of the HACCP has created increased opportunities for the ASEAN industry.

Ten projects have been carried out, two in each of the following countries : the Philippines, Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand. We are pleased to note that since joining ASEAN, Vietnam has benefited from the project through networking opportunities and training.

The ASEAN Canada Fisheries Project is an excellent example of a project which has produced significant results through technology transfer and building capacity of the ASEAN government and private sector to increase efficiency and expand market share in Canada, US and Europe.

The ASEAN Ministers established an ASEAN Fisheries Post-Harvest Technology Network upon which a program for sustainbility could be built. The Network is a computer based system, which will provide information exchange and coordinate regional activities in fisheries quality control.

We look forward to the role of the host countries in maintaining the three regional fisheries centres as a fully supported and operative regional resource for other ASEAN countries. The next step would be for ASEAN member countries to confirm at the policy level that the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point System will be used as the standard for the fish processing industries of the region at international, regional and domestic levels.

Please refer to the Annex for more details on the above-mentioned regional projects.