Mr. Chairman
Your Royal Highnesses,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

May I begin by expressing my profound thanks to H.E. Joseph Estrada, President of the Republic of the Philippines for his words of wisdom and inspiration on the ASEAN’s role. I am also grateful to the Philippino Government and people for the warm and generous hospitality extended to our delegation and for the impackable arrangements made for this Meeting.

I should also like to join our ASEAN colleagues in conveying our sincere congratulation to H.E. Mr. Domingo L. Siazon, Jr., secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines and H.E. Prof. S. Jayakumar, Minister of Foreign Affairs Of Singapore for their elections as Chairman and Vice Chairman Of this Meeting respectively.

I wish hereby to welcome the Foreign Minister of Papua New Guinea and the Special Envoy of the Kingdom of Cambodia who has taken time to attend this Meeting.

Mr. Chairman,

Over the past year, Southeast Asia has continued enjoying peace and stability which have permitted ASEAN to maintain its dynamism and cohesiveness in our big ASEAN family. The normal and regular exchange of visits between heads of state, between governments and peoples of member states have enhanced mutual understanding and confidence, and boosted mutual cooperation and assurance to the noble objectives of making Southeast Asia a zone of peace and prosperity.

The historic significance of the Second ASEAN Informal Summit held in Kuala Lumpur which has defined the ASEAN Vision 2020 will guide our different areas of cooperation creating a cohesive and prosperous ASEAN community from the dawn of the Twenty First century. This vision together with our persistent activities have received continued attention and great importance from our dialogue partners and other countries thus expanding gradually and extensively its political and economic role as well as to contribute significantly to the strengthening of peace, stability and cooperation in Asia-Pacific region and in the world.

Mr. Chairman,

After successive years of sustained economic growth and Prominent ASEAN’s role, Southeast Asia has unfortunately experienced economic difficulties. Moreover, the natural calamities which occurred in many places have caused great damages to countries in the region.

In the face of this turmoil in the present modern interdependent world today, our member states have intensified greater cooperation and coordination to address the current situation. In this process, we have initiated and implemented various cooperation programmes, namely promoting increased intra-ASEAN trade, collectively pursuing the approach to attract foreign direct investment under the frameworks of ASEAN Industrial Cooperation and ASEAN Investment Area. In addition, efforts have been made in promoting among others, tourism, sub-regional transportation and Mekong Basin Development Cooperation which will bring benefit to our region. Likewise, ASEAN has jointly undertaken activities to seek sympathy and.assistance from various countries and international financial institutions with a view to resolving the difficult situation.

It is our conviction that with concerted efforts of the member states in conjunction with external cooperation, our ASEAN Members will be able to overcome the temporary difficulties so as to help each member country enjoying a higher plane of development and to tighten our existing fruitful relations.

Mr. Chairman,

The Lao People’s Democratic Republic has also been adversely affected by the regional economic downturn. In this regard, the Lao PDR government has adopted various concrete and urgent measures to mobilize all national potentials to promote production, primarily in the area of agro-forestry combined with processing industry and services.

At the same time, the Lao PDR has continued to intensify her cooperative relations with ASEAN member and other countries to contribute to the furtherance of peace, stability and long term cooperation as well as a steadily economic development on the basis of equality and mutual interests.

As a new member of ASEAN, the Lao PDR is actively participating in a wide range of activities with other ASEAN members. We highly value and are gratified for the cooperation and assistance offered by ASEAN members, friendly countries and international organizations to facilitate the Lao PDRs fulfillment of her obligations and Laos’ integration into the mainstream of the regional economy.

Mr. Chairman,

I strongly believe that with 31 years of ASEAN fine tradition and with the consciousness of our high responsibility, our meeting will consider and endorse concrete measures to bring benefit to the people of our region. The outcome of the present meeting will also contribute to the success of the forthcoming 6th ASEAN Summit to be held in December in Hanoi. We expect that on the occasion of that historic Summit there will be an opportunity to welcome the Kingdom of Cambodia to our fold as a new member.

I believe that our deliberations will be crowned with a great success and I would like to extend my best wishes of good health and happiness to all distinguished participants.

Thank You.