Ministers,

Distinguished Delegates,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the Government and people of Viet Nam, I warmly welcome Ministers and all distinguished guests to the 42nd Meeting of the ASEAN Economic Ministers, the 4th Meeting of the ASEAN Economic Community Council and related Meetings held in this beautiful city of Da Nang, Viet Nam.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Our Meeting takes place following the recent 43rd celebration of ASEAN establishment. We are all delighted to see the maturity and growth of ASEAN. The Association has now moved to a new phase of development towards the realization of the ASEAN Community by 2015, as stated in the ASEAN Charter. This takes on greater significance for Viet Nam since it coincides with the country’s 15th anniversary of ASEAN membership, and its incumbent Chairmanship of ASEAN.

2010 is a pivotal year for ASEAN in establishing the ASEAN Community rested on the three pillars of Political-Security Community, Economic Community and Socio-Cultural Community. The Economic Community has made remarkable progress with the gradual translation into reality of AEC’s integration commitments and core economic cooperation programs. A single market and production base has taken shape on the basis of highly harmonized domestic trade-related regulations and macro policy coordination among ASEAN Member States. The establishment of the AEC is a clear manifestation of ASEAN’s strong and consistent commitments to regional economic integration.

In 2010, we are also happy to witness ASEAN’s solid economic recovery. In part, this is attributable to the positive development in the world economy. However, the decisive factor is the ASEAN resilience with pro-active actions taken by each and every Member State, including the timely policy intervention to restore the confidence of investors, businesses and people. Challenges, nonetheless, remain given the potential macro-instability, climate change, natural disasters, and so on. Therefore, we will be bolstered by mutual support, understanding and sharing among the Members. The Statement on “Sustained Recovery and Development” agreed by ASEAN Leaders at the recent 16th ASEAN Summit in Ha Noi has reaffirmed a comprehensive, balanced and systematic approach in policy coordination at national and regional levels. On that account, I believe that the theme “ASEAN Economic Community: A Community for Dynamic and Sustainable Growth” of the 42nd Meeting of the ASEAN Economic Ministers is highly relevant. It represents a timely and practical step forward in realizing our Leaders’ Statement.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The fruits of ASEAN economic integration in the past years have contributed significantly to the growth of the Association. Encouraging milestones have been seen in the road towards the establishment of the AEC. The ASEAN Free Trade Area for goods, services and investment has made great strides. A number of key cooperation programs, such as the ASEAN Single Window, Trade, Investment and Services Facilitation Programs have opened up new prospects for a liberal and integrated business environment in ASEAN. On top of that, the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity, which is now being developed, will strongly support more far-reaching ASEAN economic integration efforts via infrastructure connectivity in transportation, telecommunication and information technology, institutional connectivity and people-to-people connectivity. This, in turn, will create the foundation for expanding connectivity to the whole East Asian region with ASEAN in the driver’s seat. Globally, ASEAN has established close economic linkages through Free Trade Areas with the outside partners. In 2010, ASEAN has basically completed the establishment of Free Trade Agreements with the other 6 East Asian countries where AEC is the hub. This will help strengthen “ASEAN’s Centrality” in the regional and global economic architecture.

ASEAN has achieved important successes, but it cannot be insulated from the negative and complicated influences from the regional and global economic environment. ASEAN should always remain single-minded about its course of action charted out on the basis of its consistent principles in the interest of the Community as a whole. On that note, I suggest that our Meeting focus on the following topics:

Firstly, seek practical and innovative solutions to promote the strict and effective implementation of the AEC Blueprint by 2015. This is a strategic objective and a top priority of ASEAN in the next 5 years. The success of the AEC will help define a new and firm position for ASEAN in the global economy. This requires not only the political will of Governments but also adequate awareness of ASEAN citizens and businesses with regards to the new opportunities brought about by the AEC. We should hold high the compliance culture and enhance the monitoring mechanisms for the effective implementation of agreements.

Secondly, pursue balanced and sustainable development policies, striking the balance between economic development targets and macro-economic stability, social development and effective response to the global challenges, such as climate change, natural disaster, pandemic and economic instabilities;

Thirdly, strengthen the current framework for economic cooperation between ASEAN and Dialogue Partners to promote economic linkages and create the foundation for an emerging greater regional architecture with a secured centrality of ASEAN on the basis of its recorded achievement, identity and development orientations. Especially, the implementation of the AEC Blueprint and economic cooperation programs between ASEAN and external partners must be closely linked to the implementation of the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity in order to synergize and maximize the productivity of economic cooperation activities of ASEAN and the region;

Fourthly, work out concrete and robust measures to narrow down the development gap among countries and regions in ASEAN. Though remarkable efforts have been made in the past, the danger of widening development gap remains a major obstacle to ASEAN’s future development, especially given the context of expanded and deepened ASEAN economic integration.

Finally, solicit active participation of the community, especially ASEAN businesses and citizens for the successful establishment of AEC. ASEAN cooperation mechanisms should provide greater opportunities for businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, to understand and actively engage in the ASEAN economic integration process. The results brought about by the AEC should reflect the aspirations of and yield dividends to ASEAN businesses and people.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The 42nd Meeting of the ASEAN Economic Ministers, the 4th Meeting of ASEAN Economic Community Council and related Meetings are among the most important events under Viet Nam’s ASEAN Chairmanship. I firmly believe that, at this Meeting, Economic Ministers of ASEAN and Dialogue Partners will engage in profound and fruitful discussions on the orientation and measures to realize the regional integration objectives. With openness, creativeness, visions and good will, our Meeting will definitely contribute to the overall success of ASEAN in 2010 and create the momentum for the coming years.

In this spirit, I would like to declare the opening the 42nd Meeting of the ASEAN Economic Ministers, the 4th Meeting of ASEAN Economic Community Council and related Meetings.

May I wish Ministers and all delegates good health, happiness and success.

May the Meeting be a great success.

Thank you very much.