1. The Fifteenth ASEAN-US Dialogue was held on 24-25 May 2000 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
2. The Meeting was attended by delegations from the Governments and private sectors of ASEAN member countries and the US. The Meeting was co-chaired by H.E. Datuk Abdul Kadir Mohamad, Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and H.E. Mr. Ralph L. Boyce, Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Asia and Pacific Affairs, US Department of State. Dr. Suthad Setboonsarng, the Deputy Secretary General of ASEAN was also present.
3. The private sectors of ASEAN and the US were led by Mr. Jose Concepcion Jr., President of the ASEAN Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Mr. Ernest Z. Bower, President of the US-ASEAN Business Council respectively.
4. They exchanged views on economic issues, social and environmental issues, regional and international security issues and organisational issues.
Exchange of Views with the ASEAN and US Private Sectors
5. The Meeting exchanged views on a number of trade, investment and economic issues raised by the business representatives of both sides. They underscored the importance of the dialogue in promoting understanding with the view to enhancing trade, investment, industrial and other economic cooperation. ASEAN highlighted several issues and practices which, in ASEAN’s view, created barriers and discriminated against ASEAN exports to the US market and urged the US to address these concerns. In underlining their concern over the granting of biological patents on life forms, they proposed joint development of beneficial products using ASEAN rich biological resources and US technical expertise. The US private sector noted particularly the importance of the large ASEAN market. US companies stressed that the implementation of AFTA would be the key driver for world class technology and capital to flow to ASEAN. They also highlighted the benefits of customs modernisation, air services liberalisation, e-commerce and a science-based approach to biotechnology. ASEAN expressed hope that the US private sector would play a lead role in facilitating investments flows into the region and noted with appreciation the US-ASEAN Business Council’s support for the ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Investment Mission to the US, 15-20 May 2000.
Exchange of Views on Economic Issues
6. The participants, including the representatives from the private sector, reviewed the economic situation of the region in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 1997, which severely affected many ASEAN countries. They recognised that ASEAN was now on the recovery track with stronger and more sustainable growth, active and accelerated economic cooperation activities and robust industrial development. They commended the national, bilateral, regional, and international efforts and initiatives taken by ASEAN member countries in overcoming the impact of the crisis and in ensuring recovery and sustainable growth. ASEAN underlined its regional initiatives such as AFTA, AIA, AICO and AFAS would play a catalytic role in ASEAN’s economic recovery process and in meeting the challenges of greater regional integration and globalisation. They noted that the positive strides the regional initiatives were making in addressing the challenges. The US noted the key contribution made by the open US economy to regional recovery.
7. ASEAN expressed optimism that the ASEAN Investment Mission to the US on 15-20 May 2000 would facilitate a greater flow of US investments to the region.
8. They recognised the important role of international financial institutions in assisting to restore macroeconomic and financial stability in several countries in the region. They supported the need to continue strengthening monetary and financial systems at national and international levels. Recognising the social impact of the financial crisis, they underscored the need for the region to protect the socially vulnerable sector of the society and highlighted the important role that World Bank and ADB could play in this regard.
9. They agreed that one of the main challenges was sustaining the economic growth. In this connection, they recognised the importance of strengthening macroeconomic and financial discipline at the national level, dialogue and cooperative activities at the regional level and strengthening the financial system at the international level. Further, ASEAN urged the US to continue to pursue policies that would sustain economic stability and growth in the region.
10. ASEAN and the US examined trade and investment, economic and technical cooperation exchanges and developments in APEC and WTO. Both sides emphasised on the need to keep markets opened and not to succumb to internal pressures to restrict imports. ASEAN underlined the potential of AFTA, AIA, AICO, AFAS and e-ASEAN initiative to attract greater foreign direct investments and trade in goods and services. On standards and conformity assessment, they noted past bilateral cooperative activities with several ASEAN member countries and the US plans to attend consultations with the ASEAN Consultative Committee on Standards and Quality at its forthcoming Meeting in Bali, Indonesia in August 2000 to explore possible areas for joint cooperation.
11. They noted the ASEAN’s regional strategy towards achieving full recovery and realising the ASEAN Vision 2020 through interim regional action plans, the first being the Ha Noi Plan of Action (HPA) adopted at the 6th ASEAN Summit in December 1998. ASEAN stressed that the HPA could act as a conduit to reinvigorate and revitalise ASEAN-US relations in a comprehensive manner and urged the US to participate actively in development cooperation activities with ASEAN, in particular in human resource development, science and technology, SMEs, environment and agriculture. ASEAN acknowledged the bilateral assistance provided by the US to some member countries but called for greater participation of US at the regional level, especially with the HPA in place, to further strengthen ASEAN-US relations. The US supported the HPA as an important regional strategy and noted the important role of the private sector in contributing to its success.
12. On WTO, ASEAN and the US recognised the need to move forward from the WTO Ministerial Conference in Seattle. As a first step, ASEAN urged the WTO to work towards the restoration of confidence of developing countries in the promised benefits of globalisation and trade liberalisation. ASEAN recalled its agreement in Yangon in May 2000 that the agenda of any new round should be wide ranging to achieve a balance of interests for all WTO members, including the implementation of capacity building for developing countries. ASEAN underlined that trade matters should not be linked to labour and other non-trade related issues. ASEAN urged the US to strongly support and facilitate efforts towards the early membership of Cambodia, Lao PDR and Viet Nam to the WTO.
13. The US continued to believe it was possible to launch a new round this year, but this would require flexibility of all members. In its view, the new round must bring down barriers in agriculture, manufacturing and services, keep e-commerce duty free and ensure that freer trade would improve living conditions for working people everywhere, while protecting the environment. In addition, the US maintained that the WTO must be more open and accessible to all citizens around the world.
14. On APEC, ASEAN placed strong emphasis on the development of human resources, SMEs and addressing the digital divide among members. ASEAN also strongly supported the APEC theme of “Delivering to the Community”. The US was fully committed to APEC and appreciated Brunei’s efforts as APEC Chair. ASEAN also supported an action agenda benefiting the technically advanced and the technologically developing SMEs across the region.
Exchange of Views on Social and Environmental Issues
15. ASEAN recognised that the advances in science and technology and in human resources development had been crucial to socio-economic development. The two sides discussed existing and planned areas of cooperation in biotechnology, food science and technology, meteorology and physics, microelectronics and information technology, material science and technology, non-conventional energy research, marine sciences and space technology and applications. ASEAN would welcome US support for its initiatives such as the ASEAN Virtual University of Science and Technology, ASEAN Science and Technology Network, science and technology management through technical assistance. ASEAN looked forward to continued US collaboration in the areas of education, R&D and quality systems, which were critical elements for the promotion of science and technology and human resources development.
16. On environment, they agreed to continue cooperation to prevent a recurrence of the haze problem resulting from large-scale forest fires. ASEAN appreciated the US assistance in the implementation of the Regional Haze Action Plan together with ASEAN’s other dialogue partners and international agencies. ASEAN also looked forward to similar US assistance in the areas of environmental management, protection of coastal resources and regeneration of degraded coastal habitat and the conservation and management of heritage parks and nature reserves.
17. The US noted that ASEAN is poised for a rapid growth after the recovery from the crisis. Rapid industrialisation and urbanisation would be a challenge for the region. In this connection, the US pledged its continued support for ASEAN to adopt clean technologies for sustainable growth. On the issue of climate change, both sides recognised that developed countries were the largest emitters of green house gases and bore the primary responsibilities for combating climate change. The US side believed that ASEAN countries could benefit both environmentally and economically by reducing green house gases emissions. The US was committed to working with ASEAN member countries to combat climate change without compromising any country’s development aspirations.
18. They exchanged views on agriculture cooperation and noted that the sector assisted ASEAN in absorbing the impact of the financial crisis. In this connection, they welcomed ASEAN and USDA cooperation in food, agriculture and forestry and in rural development and poverty eradication. This would facilitate mutually agreed activities in areas such as institutional development, technology transfer, training, development of agro-business connections. They also agreed that the sector had tremendous potential to support economic growth, in particular ASEAN’s full recovery and sustainable development.
19. On transnational issues, both sides exchanged views on piracy, international crime, trafficking in women and children, illicit trafficking in small arms and HIV-AIDS, including cooperative programmes to address these problems. The US welcomed the on-going efforts of ASEAN to achieve a region free from the production, processing, trafficking and use of illicit drugs and the adoption of a plan of action to implement the ASEAN Declaration on Transnational Crime aimed at combating transnational crime comprehensively from the regional dimension, among others, with the assistance of the international community. The US expressed interest in continuing to collaborate with ASEAN in the counter narcotics cooperation through regional activities. Both sides agreed to work closely in combating of transnational crime and HIV-AIDS. In this connection, the US welcomed the establishment of the ASEAN Centre for Combating Transnational Crime and pledged support for the Centre.
Exchange of Views on Regional and International Security Issues
20. They exchanged views on the political and security issues that impact on the regional security environment. They noted that, despite a number of challenges and uncertainties, the overall security environment was marked by a number of positive developments, including continued economic recovery and greater interaction and exchanges between and among regional countries. They were of the view that stable relations among the major powers had contributed to these positive developments. They welcomed the positive developments on the Korean Peninsula, in particular the Summit between the leaders of the DPRK and ROK in June 2000 and hoped that the momentum would be carried forward with a view to achieving enduring peace on the Korean Peninsula.
21. The US noted that the South China Sea remained an area of potential conflict. They welcomed efforts to resolve differences, peacefully and urged that all parties consider other steps that could be taken to bring stability to the area. In noting the relative peace and stability in the South China Sea, ASEAN welcomed the continuing efforts in formulating with China the Regional Code of Conduct in the South China Sea. ASEAN also noted the ongoing efforts to promoting confidence building measures through the Workshop Series on the South China Sea.
22. The US noted that the situation in Myanmar remained a source of instability in the region. The US welcomed the appointment of Mr. Razali Ismail as Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General on Myanmar and expressed the hope that this would lead to constructive dialogue. ASEAN noted the on-going efforts of Myanmar in promoting peace, tranquility and stability in the country. ASEAN is of the view that Mr. Razali Ismail’s visit to Myanmar would be able to create better understanding regarding the question of dialogue.
23. The Meeting welcomed positive developments in East Timor and the cooperation between Indonesia and the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET). They noted with satisfaction that the situation in the border has improved over recent weeks. They recognised the progress in Indonesia’s efforts to resolve the remaining problems of refugees. They exchanged views on the importance of dealing with the remaining issue of activities of individual militias.
24. The two sides discussed non proliferation issues and the ongoing consultations between the State Parties to the SEANWFZ Treaty and the Nuclear Weapon States.
Exchange of Views on Organisational Issues
25. Both sides welcomed ways to further streamline and improve the PMC and dialogue process in order to make it more efficient and relevant to the changing needs and expectations. This included the agenda and format for the PMC.