Your Excellency, Minister Lloyd Axworthy;
Distinguished Members of the Canadian and ASEAN Delegations;
Ladies and Gentlemen:
On behalf of my ASEAN colleagues and of the Philippine Government, I welcome Minister Lloyd Axworthy and the members of his delegation to this year’s ASEAN-Canada Post Ministerial Conference. I also wish to acknowledge the presence of my other ASEAN colleagues and the ASEAN Secretary General for this morning’s session.
Regional and International Issues
This year marks the 21st year of the establishment of the ASEAN-Canada Dialogue Relations, one of the pioneer dialogue partners of ASEAN.
Over the years, ASEAN and Canada have worked together on significant subjects vital to the security and stability of the Asia Pacific region. We acknowledge Canada’s interest in achieving progress in the ARF process particularly in the areas of new confidence building measures (CBMS) and maritime issues of maritime safety, law and order at sea, and the marine environment.
Another valuable contribution is Canada’s offer to co-host with Japan and Malaysia a Peacekeeping Training Course in Tokyo in March 1999. Moreover, Canada, through CIDA, lends valuable support to the Indonesian-sponsored series of Informal Workshops on Managing Potential Conflicts in the South China Sea.
The Philippines congratulates Canada for its dedicated leadership for the success of the Ottawa Process which seeks to ban the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of anti-personnel landmines. The Philippines signed the Convention on 03 December 1997 and well into its early ratification.
Economic and Trade Relations
Despite the current economic and financial problems besetting ASEAN member countries, the long-term potentials for greater trade and investment linkages between our private sectors remain attractive. We encourage your private sector, particularly the ASEAN-Canada Business Council to explore avenues for enhanced trade and investment cooperation between ASEAN and Canada to take advantage of ASEAN’s economic resurgence.
With the foundation laid for greater economic integration in the region, the ASEAN region would be more interesting to Canadian investors. The timetable for the realization of AFTA before 2003 remains on track, the Basic Agreement on ASEAN Industrial Cooperation Scheme (AICO) has been effective since 1996 and the Framework Agreement on ASEAN Investment Area (AIA) will soon be in place. Negotiations for the liberalization of several sectors in services such as finance, telecommunications, tourism, business services, construction, air transport and maritime transport offer business opportunities to Canadian investors.
On trade matters, ASEAN highly appreciates Canada’s extension of General Preferential Tariff (GPT) rates and reduction of GPT rates of products ASEAN has submitted to Canada particularly canned tuna, raw cane sugar, cocoa products, refined palm oil and refined palm kernel oil. ASEAN remains concemed over the proposed regulations under the Goods Manufacturing Practices (GMP) for food. The proposed regulations would erode the competitiveness of ASEAN food exports as they would require huge capital outlay for small food manufacturers and processors in ASEAN to conform with Canadian standards. At this stage when ASEAN countries are experiencing economic difficulties, the proposed regulation would create further difficulties to ASEAN exporters.
ASEAN wishes to express its gratitude and appreciation to Canada for the development assistance extended, which have contributed to the improvement of capacity-building requirements of member countries of ASEAN. Considering the grave implications of the current financial crisis to the vulnerable sectors of peoples of ASEAN, we urge Canada to accord priority to the mitigation of the social impact of the crisis in planning ASEAN-Canada development programs.
We likewise wish to invite Canada’s attention to ASEAN Vision 2020, a document adopted by the ASEAN Heads of State/Govemrnent at the Third Informal Summit in Kuala Lumpur in December 1997, particularly the section on the fostering of a caring society in ASEAN. Most of the elements of this goal correspond to Canada’s priority areas for development assistance financing.
We have noticed the declining trend in the G-8’s contribution to ODA as a proportion of their respective national economies. We would like to request Canada to exercise its moral leadership to reverse this negative development.
Accession of New Members of ASEAN to the ASEAN-Canada Economic Cooperation Agreement
ASEAN welcomes the accession of Lao People’s Democratic Republic to the ASEAN-Canada Economic Cooperation Agreement through the Exchange of Notes between the Foreign Ministers of Canada and Lao PDR held last Sunday, 26 July. Its accession to the Agreement makes Lao PDR eligible to participate in development cooperation projects and facilitate its integration in the Association. ASEAN hopes that Canada would extend this privilege to the other new member of the Association, Myanmar.
Although our approaches may differ, the Philippines and Canada both desire the well-being of the people of Myanmar. The Philippines would like to urge Canada not to discriminate against Myanmar, a full member of ASEAN, in its participation in ASEAN-Canada development projects. The Philippines encourages openness, tolerance and continued dialogue until a workable approach is attained.
Future Directions of the Dialogue Relations
ASEAN-Canada dialogue relations enter into its third decade replete with new challenges. To address these challenges, at the 11th ASEAN-Canada JCC held in Montreal, both sides decided to establish a Working Group to analyze the future directions of the dialogue relation. As dialogue country-coordinator, I would be submitting to His Excellency the Working Group’s terms of reference (TOR) for Canada’s consideration.
I am confident that we can build upon what we have achieved so far with our two decades of harmonious and fruitful dialogue relationship. I look forward to a productive and successful session this moming.