Your Royal Highnesses,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This Summit has opened many new horizons for ASEAN.
At the historic 1967 Bangkok Meeting, ASEAN’s founding fathers laid the foundation for an Organisation that has delivered 28 years of peace and prosperity for our people. I believe that at this 1995 Bangkok Summit Meeting, we have begun erecting new pillars on the strong 1967 foundation. These new pillars will see the creation of a larger zone of peace and prosperity in and around ASEAN.
The one clear personal impression that I will bring home from this meeting is the extraordinary degree to which our visions for the future overlapped. Listening to my colleagues, I realised that we share a common vision of our region becoming as well developed and as well connected as, say, the European continent.
For example, Dr. Mahathir shared with us his vision of an electric train running north from Singapore to Kunming via KL and Bangkok. We also discussed the sharing of our resource, with gas pipelines criss-crossing the region and central banks helping one another to withstand currency speculation through collateralised currency repurchase arrangement. These new areas of cooperation can build on the sub-regional growth areas we have established.
As His Majesty, the Sultan of Brunei, said, BIMP-EAGA, SIJORI and the Northern Triangle already provide clear evidence of a strong desire to widen the areas of economic cooperation.
Over time, our region’s interconnectedness will be as dense as Europe’s. And we will grow closer together as a community. This is an exciting vision. I am glad that ASEAN has agreed to launch this new pattern of regional development cooperation involving other Asian countries by convening a meeting of the relevant Ministers in KL in the next year. The first meeting will discuss cooperation in the Mekong Basin.
But, while we discussed the opportunities, we did not ignore the challenges we face. We live in an unpredictable world. Things are changing fast. ASEAN will have to react faster. We have the ARF, which will play a leading role in getting the major powers engaged in constructive relationships.
We have also signed the SEANWFZ Treaty, which as President Soeharto said, “… constitutes a significant instrument for further enhancing peace and stability in the region.”
But we decided that we needed to do more. Hence the ASEAN Leaders will meet more frequently. Between the regular formal ASEAN Summits, we will have annual Informal ASEAN Summits. Indonesia has kindly agreed to host the first Informal ASEAN Summit twelve months from now. We may see such meetings attended not just by ASEAN Leaders, but other Asian Leaders as well.
Our Ministers and officials have prepared well for this meeting. But the ASEAN Leaders were able to push the frontiers of ASEAN cooperation even further. ASEAN Leaders delivered significant new initiatives during their short stay in Bangkok. When Leaders meet only among themselves, in an informal atmosphere, rapport is quickly established. The discussions are more substantive and productive. This is why the ASEAN Leaders have agreed that the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Bangkok next year should also be a leaders-only meeting. It can be preceded by Ministerial meetings.
The value of these closed door informal leaders-only meetings between ASEAN and other leaders was also demonstrated when we met the Leaders of Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar. This was the first time that the ten Southeast Asian Leaders had met as a group. The close rapport and understanding we quickly established has paved the way for the early realisation of our vision of an ASEAN community of 10 nations. I congratulate Thailand on this initiative.
We also acknowledged in our discussions that an enlarged ASEAN membership will create both opportunities and challenges. New members will have to adjust quickly to ASEAN’s values and corporate culture. For instance, they may be initially surprised at the frank and candid way in which we discuss problems and the manner in which we reach consensus. They will also face difficulties in discharging their multifold obligations within ASEAN, including phasing in their commitments in AFTA.
The membership of these countries will also change the tone and character of ASEAN. Some of the comfortable live-and-let-live relationships may evaporate, though I am optimistic that they would not. ASEAN consensus on some issues may be more difficult to achieve. We will have to increasingly rely on the principle of flexible consensus.
This has been a very fruitful meeting. In the field of ASEAN economic cooperation, we have signed the ASEAN Framework Agreements on Services and on Intellectual Property Cooperation. We have endorsed the new ASEAN Industrial Cooperation Scheme which will be signed by our Economic Ministers in the next few months. We have also agreed to accelerate tariff reductions in AFTA and to forge closer linkages with the CER.
As ASEAN societies develop and grow, it is important that we do not neglect the human element. We have therefore decided to elevate ASEAN functional cooperation to a higher plane to improve the quality of life amongst our peoples. This point was emphasized by President Soeharto, President Ramos and PM Banharn.
Your Royal Highnesses,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Clearly, a lot of work has been done in the last 48 hours. All this, Mr. Chairman, has been possible because of your impressive leadership in our meetings. You guided us well through this Summit. I look forward to your guiding us through the forthcoming Asia-Europe Meeting with great success.
We would also like to thank you and through you, your colleagues and officials, for extending to us the traditional, warm and generous Thai hospitality. I would also like to place on record our thanks to the ASEAN Foreign Ministers, the ASEAN Economic Ministers, the ASEAN officials and the ASEAN Secretariat, all of whom have worked tirelessly to ensure the success of our deliberations in Bangkok. I am sure my colleagues will join me in applauding you, Mr. Chairman, and the people of Thailand for all that you have done for us.