Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to express my sincere thanks to Your Majesty and Your Excellencies for your kind words about our country and people. These are vivid expressions of the spirit of good neighborliness among ASEAN countries. Your words strongly encourage our people, who are now focusing their attention on Hanoi and awaiting the successful conclusion of the 6th ASEAN Summit.
This Summit is of great significance since it takes place at a time mankind is approaching a new millennium.
The 20th century will go down into history as one that has brought momentous changes to mankind in general and to the peoples of Southeast Asia in particular, and a century wherein nations regained independence, and the right to decide their own destiny.
At present, even though conflicts still occur in different parts of the world and hotspots exist, and complexity and unjust imposition abound in international relations, the will power and strength of nations have become an increasingly decisive factor in promoting peace and cooperation which have now become the prevailing trend in the world.
Developing countries, including ours, are faced with intertwined opportunities and challenges. Great achievements in science and technology have created boundless capacities for mankind, but at the same time challenged developing countries with the danger of lagging further behind industrialised and developed countries. Rapid economic globalisation is bringing about greater market access and new partners for development, but also putting the weaker economies in a more vulnerable and disadvantageous position, and in an uneven competition.
Looking back, into the history of Southeast Asia and the development process of ASEAN, we can legitimately be proud of the achievements that we have recorded. The nations of Southeast Asia have become independent and been living in peace, former animosity and confrontation are gradually replaced by friendly cooperation and regional cohesion. From poor and backward lands, Southeast Asia has risen to a region of dynamic development with high growth rates sustained for many years. Although the current economic turmoil has deprived us of many of our hard-earned gains, the social, economic and cultural foundations that each of our countries has put in place, plus our great potentials and advantages, give us grounds to be confident that the internal strength of each country and the region, coupled with external cooperation, are the forces which will steer the ASEAN ship through the turbulent seas onto the 21st century.
The current financial and monetary turmoil clearly demonstrates that in the natural process of economic globalisation, every crisis today is to start a chain reaction that could only be checked through concerted efforts at all levels – national, regional, and global.
At the national level, it is vital to mobilise to the maximum all internal resources inherent in each country. Those are the established economic foundations, untapped natural resources, and the domestic market in each country and in the entire region, the abundant source of well trained, skillful, and hard-working labour. In addition, other significant strengths are our sense of national and regional resilience, and values of our traditional culture. At the same time, this calls for the acceleration, in appropriate steps, of reforms and renovation. For the time being, particular attention should be focused on reforming the financial and banking system, enhancing the effectiveness of macroeconomic management.
Vietnam, in its initial stage of economic integration into the region and the world, cannot avoid the adverse effect of the crisis either. In the course of combating the financial turbulence and maintaining a positive economic growth rate, we have, come to better understand the correlation between internal mobilisation and external integration. As a country where 80% of its population live in rural areas, and more than 70% of the labour force engage in agriculture, Vietnam attaches special importance to the endogenous capacity in agriculture and rural areas. In industrialisation and modernisation, it is our policy to develop industries and services in the rural areas instead of concentrating them in large urban centers. That it is an appropriate way to alleviate poverty, harmonise economic growth with social equity and stability as well as to improve ecological environment and achieve sustainable development. Agriculture including forestry and fishery, plays an important role in almost all regional countries. Our region is able not only to ensure food security for all member countries but also to help meet the nutrition needs which are becoming urgent in the world. Reality shows that international integration is a natural trend, on the other hand, liberalisation of trade, investment, services and finance. should take appropriate steps in line with each country’s level of economic development, with the pace of renovation and enhancement of macro-management capability.
At the regional level, ASEAN has been able to set up a mechanism for cooperation under favourable economic conditions. We, however, have not been able to create a mechanism for coordination in time of crisis. We hope that this economic turmoil would give us valuable, lessons to design a system for warning, preventing and handling untoward developments. This could be a mechanism for the exchange of experience in macroeconomic management, monitoring, coordination, and mutual assistance. At the same time, practical economic, financial and monetary measures, including those related to the establishment of the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) and the ASEAN Investment Area (AIA) incorporated in the Hanoi Plan of Action, will certainly create a synergy for us to quickly overcome the crisis and move further forward.
At the global level, when economic interdependence grows to an unprededented height, cooperation becomes necessary. We welcome the support and assistance given by all countries and international financial and monetary institutions, to those seriously hit or affected by the crisis. We also hope that while extending assistance, they would take into account characteristics of the recipient countries to spare them from social disturbances, and impediments to economic recovery. One practical help is to open their markets and grant nondiscriminatory treatment which would help those countries tide over. This crisis has tolled a bell, warning us that the global financial market is very much likely to get out of control. Clearly, it is high time that we reformed international financial and monetary institutions, found ways to curb monetary speculation detrimental to many economies and the global economy as a whole. Developing countries are often requested to foster foreign investors’ confidence. That is a legitimate request and we are all doing our utmost to improve the investment environment, restore investors’ confidence. In return, we expect foreign investors to reinforce our confidence in their commitment to long-term and mutually beneficial investments.
As a Vietnamese saying goes: “As fire tests gold, hardship tests will” we have every reason to believe that ASEAN will be able to address those challenges and soon tide over, continue to develop in a sustainable and equitable manner. Drawing up lessons of experience on the crisis, we need to strengthen the fundamentals for sustainable economic development in harmony with social and cultural development, making use of the human factor, improving the ecological environment, eradicating social evils, especially the drug issue and the HIV/AIDS threat which are growing at an alarming rate in some countries of our region.
Today, ASEAN includes member countries at significantly different development levels. Most of our countries have yet to ensure an equitable development to different geographical areas and population strata. As such, the idea of equitable development that we emphasise at this summit is highly relevant and timely. On this occasion, we would also like to draw your attention to a considerably large area of the Mekong Basin. This area remains underdeveloped, though endowed with great potentials. It covers the central parts of Vietnam and Laos, and Northeastern part of Thailand. Vietnam’s initiative on a regional development programme aimed at creating a West-East Corridor (WEC), has drawn the interests of many countries.
It is vital for us to maintain peace and stability, Although the environment of the region is one of relative peace, it is not really stable because there, still exist a number of possibly destabilising factors.
At the 5th Summit, the ten Southeast Asian countries signed a historic document – the Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone. We call on the Nuclear Weapons States to sign, at an early date, the Treaty Protocol so as to ensure the effectiveness of the Treaty, thus saving our region from a likely disaster caused by this weapon of mass destruction.
We warmly welcome the success of the free and fair elections last July and the recent formation of a new power structure in Cambodia under the important guidance of His Majesty, King Norodom Sihanouk. From the bottom of our heart we wish the Kingdom of Cambodia peace, stability and prosperity. Following an open exchange of views, the ASEAN Leaders come to the decision to admit the Kingdom of Cambodia as the tenth member of ASEAN and has instructed their Foreign Minister to organise a special admission ceremony in Hanoi. The decision makes it possible to fulfil the vision of ASEAN-10, enhances ASEAN’s strength and international standing, and contributes, in an important way, to strengthening peace, increasing cooperation and promoting development in Southeast Asia.
As a coastal country bordering the Eastern Sea, we always harbour an earnest desire for stability in this region on the basis of the agreement by all countries concerned to work through negotiations for a fundamental and long-term solution to the sovereign disputes over the archipelagos in conformity with international law, especially the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and the 1992 ASEAN Declaration on the Eastern Sea. Pending such a solution, we should maintain the status quo, refrain from complicating the situation, especially from the threat or use of force; work out, with the agreement of the parties concerned, appropriate forms of cooperation.
Today, domestic and international stability, economic, political and social stability are intertwined. Disturbances in our region would not serve any country’s interests and outside troubles would negatively impact our region. Therefore, we expect mutual respect, constructive cooperation to maintain peace, Stability. The ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) has proved its initial effectiveness, making contributions to building confidence and enhancing stability. We firmly believe that ASEAN will continue its leading role in driving the ARF in the right direction, thus laying foundation for durable and long-term security in Asia-Pacific.
The key to ASEANs success is the close unity among its member countries. President Ho Chi Minh the founding father of the now Vietnam, stressed, on many occasions, the significance of “Unity, broad unity, broader unity; Success, great success, greater success.” We may come to think that this thought is true not solely for Vietnam. In reality, unity in diversity has been and will be giving added strength to each country, promoting cooperation and enhancing ASEAN’s standing in the international community. Today, against the backdrop of the economic and financial crisis, unity and one-mindedness has become more crucial than ever before. It is our firm belief that with the common objectives of peace, cooperation for development; with the common legal basis of the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC); with “the ASEAN way”, we will definitely strengthen our one-mindedness while maintaining member countries’ identities. With this belief, we would like to call upon all member countries to make joint efforts to resolve outstanding issues, so that ASEAN’s younger generations can advance, hand in hand, and free of misgivings, into the new century in great strides and durable harmony.
With those thoughts in mind and with our appreciation of all your articulate and heartfelt statements, which have a lot in common, we are fully convinced of the success of our Summit.
Thank you for your attention.