1. The ASEAN Economic Ministers and the Ministers of Trade of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) held an informal meeting in Singapore on 11 December 1996. This is the first meeting ever held at the ministerial level between the two organizations, who agreed to establish a closer relationship between themselves in the future.
2. The ASEAN Economic Ministers in attendance were H.E. Pehin Dato Abdul Rahman Taib, Minister of Industry and Primary Resources, Brunei Darussalam; H.E. Mr. Hartarto, Coordinating Minister for Production and Distribution, Indonesia; H.E. Mr. Cesar B. Bautista, Secretary of Trade and Industry, Philippines; and H.E. Mr. Le Van Triet, Minister of Trade, Vietnam. Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand were also represented by Mr. Supperamaniam, Director, Multilateral Trade, Ministry of International Trade and Industry, H.E. Mr. Ridzwan Dzafir, Director-General, Trade Development Board, Singapore, H.E. Mr. Krirk Krai Jirapaet, Permanent Representative in Geneva, Thailand.
3. The EFTA Ministers were represented by H.E. Mr. Finnur Ingolfsson, Minister for Commerce and Industry, Iceland; H.E. Ambassador Roland Marxer, Head of the Office for Foreign Affairs; Liechtenstein; H.E. Mrs. Kari Nordheim-Larsen, Minister of Development Cooperation, Norway; and H.E. Mr. Franz Blankart, State Secretary, Switzerland.
4. The Secretaries-General of ASEAN and EFTA, H.E. Dato’ Ajit Singh and H.E. Kjartan Jóhannsson, were also in attendance.
5. The Ministers noted the significant increase in trade between the ASEAN and EFTA States of 24.7 per cent from 1994 to 1995. Two-way trade between ASEAN and EFTA amounted to over $5 billion in 1995. The Ministers expressed the view that greater efforts should be made to promote trade and investment linkages between the two regions. The Ministers underlined the vital role of their business communities in that respect.
6. The Ministers welcomed the plans of ASEAN and EFTA to begin cooperation between the ASEAN and EFTA Secretariats. To this end they requested the secretariats of the two organizations to identify areas of cooperation and suggest an appropriate framework for the cooperation between the ASEAN and EFTA states.
7. The Ministers emphasized that the development of these linkages between ASEAN and EFTA reflect their commitment to open regionalism. They affirmed that regional trading arrangements must complement and strengthen the multilateral trading system.
8. The Ministers re-affirmed their commitment to the multilateral trading system and to the process of liberalization and rule-making within the WTO and exchanged views on the ongoing discussions at the WTO Ministerial meeting and confirmed their determination to work for its successful outcome.
9. The Ministers also exchanged views on international and regional issues including AFTA, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) and the integration process within Europe.