Your Excellency Secretary of State Madeleine Albright,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
At the outset, allow me, on behalf of my ASEAN colleagues, to extend to you, Secretary Albright, a warm welcome to this annual session of the Post Ministerial Conference (PMC) between ASEAN and the United States. It is indeed a pleasure to see you leading your delegation to this Conference for the first time.
Your presence here with us today underlines the commitment of the United States to its cooperation with ASEAN which has been ongoing for the past two decades. During those years, the United States played a key role in the Asia-Pacific region, especially in the field of trade and investment, environment, human resources development, transfer of technology as well as social and culture development.
The United States has also played a leading role in continuing reiteration of its commitment to regional security.
As a consequence of interdependence, regional and sub-regional cooperation in the Asia-Pacific have broadened and intensified in the political, economic and social fields. Because of such cooperation, the peoples of the region have increasingly enjoyed peace and prosperity. They have also begun to be more aware of one another’s existence and importance and to be more understanding and appreciative of one another. In such a positive climate, the ASEAN countries have enjoyed rapid and sustained economic growth to the extent that they are now regarded as constituting one of the most economically dynamic regions in the world.
We are further heartened to note that in the economic field, particularly in trade and investment, ASEAN-US cooperation continues to grow to the mutual benefit of both sides. ASEAN has remained the third largest export market for the United States.
Now that ASEAN has achieved considerable progress in the implementation of AFTA, we hope that the United states will be encouraged to boost its bilateral trade ASEAN. We also hope that the United States will avail itself of the opportunities resulting from our pursuit of the ASEAN Industrial Cooperation (AICO) scheme in order to expand its investments in the region. We are very much interested in US investments in telecommunications, computers and peripherals marketing, building and construction, energy development, food processing and packaging and development of mining sectors. US investments in ASEAN particularly in these sectors, are expected to add impetus to our human resources development through transfer of technology which, in turn will enhance the competitiveness of ASEAN as an investment area. Even today, ASEAN competitiveness in the investment sector no longer depends solely on low production cost but also on other factors such as greater accessibility to the expanding ASEAN market. This is the idea behind the Asian Investment Area (AIA): by enhancing our competitive edge, we hope to increase the flow of investment into ASEAN from both ASEAN and non-ASEAN sources.
With a view to promoting ASEAN-US trade and economic relations, both ASEAN and the US have continued to encourage the active participation of their private sectors in the Dialogue process as well as in consultations in other relevant forums. In this context we welcomed the visit of a delegation of US Business Leaders to Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia in March 1997. That visit demonstrated once again the long-term commitment of both the ASEAN and US business sectors towards a broader US ASEAN partnership in trade and economic cooperation.
When the ASEAN-US Dialogue began in 1977, it gave priority to such areas as commodities, access to markets, access to capital and transfer of technology. US development cooperation with ASEAN during that time focused on basic human needs in order to engage the largest possible segment of the population. However, in the mid-80s, there were significant changes that affected the nature and direction of the relationship. Consequently, the level of development assistance from the US to ASEAN began to diminish as ASEAN rose to a higher level of development. At the same time, there was also a shift of focus towards regional cooperation and human resources development. Projects agreed by both sides opened up greater opportunities for the private sector.
ASEAN is aware that maintaining as well as enhancing a dialogue cooperation is by no means an easy task. Sustaining a dialogue relationship entails the nurturing of all its components. For ASEAN, one of the pillars of a dialogue relationship is development cooperation. If this component falls short of target, ways and means should be devised to enhance it. I should therefore like to draw your attention to the fact that ever since Indonesia took over the coordinatorship of this dialogue, there has been a continuing decline of activities in ASEAN-US development cooperation. And this is occurring at a time when there is greater need for such activities, considering that ASEAN is going through a crucial phase of its development.
It may be recalled that ever since the completion of the Private Investment and Trade Opportunities (PITO) project in 1995, no new project has been launched except for the Environmental Improvement Project (EIP) which is fully run by the private sector. At last year’s Annual Meeting, we took note of the US-ASEAN Alliance for Mutual Growth as proposed by the US at the AEM-USTR Meeting in Seattle. However, this programme is yet to be implemented. ASEAN would like to suggest that steps be taken to expedite the launching of this programme which would promote growth in the public-private partnership.
With regard to cultural and social cooperation, we have forwarded an ASEAN paper in response to the request of the United States for recommendations and proposals for new programmes to promote cultural and social cooperation. Among the proposals in that paper is for a people-to-people cultural exchange programme similar to the USIA’s Fulbright Programme. The paper was conveyed to the US side during the 13th ASEAN-US Dialogue last year. We are waiting for a concrete response.
ASEAN would therefore like to invite the United States to further constructive discussions to find ways and means of enhancing cooperation in all areas and not just in the areas where we have achieved success. ASEAN sincerely hopes that the US shares its view that a more focused cooperation in specific areas such as the fight against illegal drug traffic, socio-cultural exchanges, environmental protection and human resources development, would greatly enhance overall ASEAN-US Dialogue Partnership. If both ASEAN and the US are able to strengthen and elevate their cooperation within the framework of this partnership, there will be great benefits to the ASEAN and American peoples as it would contribute to the maintenance and growth of their security, stability and prosperity. ASEAN is fully prepared to give its wholehearted support to these endeavours.
ASEAN fervently hopes that this meeting will serve to increase mutual understanding and appreciation of our respective needs and aspirations so that we can fully explore and decide on ways and means of further strengthening our Dialogue relationship. If we work together in the spirit of partnership and equitable sharing of responsibility, the spirit that, in the first place, launched our Dialogue Relations, I am convinced that such a goal is not beyond our reach.