This is my seventh ASEAN Post Ministerial Conference. In fact, this is the second PMC I have attended in Kuala Lumpur which means that I have now more than completed the full circle of ASEAN capitals. With an expanded ASEAN, this record will be something of a challenge for any future Minister.
This is also my second bilateral meeting, Your Excellency, under your very able chairmanship, I wish here to record New Zealand’s warm and sincere thanks for the cooperation and support you and your Government have always extended to us as our ASEAN Country Coordinator. We recall with special pleasure the professional preparation and excellent host arrangements you made for both the Joint Management Committee and the Officials’ Dialogue meetings in Ha Noi last October. We are grateful to you Vice Minister Vu Khoan, and our other Vietnamese colleagues. I believe the effectiveness of the relationship was enhanced by the very good personal rapport which has developed among us.
Next month, New Zealand will have a new Country Coordinator. Brunei Darussalam. When Brunei joined ASEAN in 1985/6, they too took on the job of looking after us as a Dialogue Partner. We look forward to working closely with our old friends from Brunei again, as we move into a new period in the ASEAN/New Zealand relationship.
Mr Chairman, please allow me to make several general observations. I very much value the opportunity which this Post Ministerial Meeting affords me to renew and strengthen contacts with Ministers of countries which we count among our closest friends. It is a chance to carry forward the policy dialogue on a wide variety of issues in which we all share an interest. You may recall that, earlier this year, I put forward suggestions about renovating the PMC. Those proposals were not aimed at undertaking reform for its own sake, but at underlining the importance New Zealand attaches to its relations with ASEAN and using to best advantage this opportunity to get together.
During the 22 years that we have been a Dialogue Partner, there has also been a very pleasing consolidation of New Zealand’s relationship with ASEAN, That New Zealand is a long standing, core member of PMC goes to the heart of how we view our place in the world. In ourselves, we are evolving as a rather unique country in this region – part European, part Polynesian, and part Asian. In security and economic matters, we are closely engaged with Asia. That engagement will only increase further. Through the PMC and, also importantly, through our rapidly developing bilateral relations with the countries of this region, it is plain for all to see where New Zealand stands in the world.
There are new challenges. Among them is the vital task of helping the newer members of ASEAN come to grips with the sometimes quite onerous obligations they must meet. Especially through managerial and English language training, as well as trade policy development, New Zealand is seeking to help. We are not a large donor, but I hope we can earn over time the title of “Action Partner” in addition to our dialogue status.
Recent Developments in ASEAN
1997 is a very significant year for ASEAN. I would like, first, to extend my warm congratulations to ASEAN as you celebrate your 30th Anniversary. Thirty years is a notable period of time. When one thinks back to 1967, South East Asia was a very different place from what we see today. The profound changes – political, economic and social – which have transformed the landscape of South East Asia are in no small way attributable to ASEAN and its achievements, One of those, I believe, is worth special mention. The habit of close cooperation and consultation, which is now ingrained, has provided a platform for promoting regional stability, without which the economic resurgence could not have succeeded in the measure it has.
Last year, at this meeting, I was delighted to join others in welcoming new Dialogue partners to the PMC – China, India and Russia. This year, ASEAN has expanded to include Laos and Myanmar, We look forward to the valuable contributions which they will make to our work together, and we hope that circumstances will soon permit Cambodia to fulfill ASEAN’s original vision of an Association of all ten South East Asian Countries.
Recent Developments in New Zealand/ASEAN relations
I should like now to turn to the development of New Zealand’s relations with the countries of ASEAN. I am pleased to say that, on a wide front, we can record progress. Of particular note, there is increasing people-to-people and commercial contact.
Many leading personalities from the region have visited us; at the same time, a number of Ministers from the new coalition Government in New Zealand, which was formed in December last year, have had the opportunity to travel in South East Asia and see for themselves the dynamic changes taking place.
I have on previous occasions spoken of the ASIA 2000 Foundation which my Government set up to promote a greater understanding of Asia among New Zealanders. I am pleased to report that the Foundation is making rapid strides and is building new links in education, research, the media and business. Earlier this year, the Foundation invited prominent political and economic personalities from Asia to join in a Festival of Asia. The Asia 2000 Foundation is opening up new opportunities.
Economic relations are also growing. New Zealand now exports over 8 per cent of its goods and services to ASEAN countries. Five ASEAN countries are among our top 20 markets. The region was New Zealand’s fastest growing export market in 1996. Almost 40 per cent of our trade now goes to East Asia. Investment flows are both significant and two-way. Our private sector is making new business alliances, We would like them to do even more. And we would like ASEAN countries to sell more to us, We have one of the most open markets in the world.
We are very heartened by the steady progress being made in AFTA/CER. We are committed to strengthening economic relations between New Zealand and ASEAN. Our economies are complimentary. Because of the importance of two-way trade and investment, and the rapid growth of trade in services, I believe it is vital to try to reduce any constraints to doing business.
The involvement of the private sector in the identification of barriers to trade and investment is a key part of the AFTA/CER process. Economic ministers will be closely examining the list of constraints to be presented to them at the next Ministerial meeting in October, here in Kuala Lumpur. This should help generate new initiatives in AFTA/CER.
In areas such as standards and conformance, and customs, cooperation is developing well. New areas for work- could include tourism, transport or a sectoral approach to the identification and resolution of trade-related issues.
I strongly endorse the concept of the AFTA/CER dialogue. I believe we should continue to give our full support to it. I wish to stress also the importance we attach to the dialogue which is developing between AFTA and CER economic ministers, This is a recent development in which we see much scope for sharing views: giving practical impetus to the development of more integration between CER and AFTA; and continued policy dialogue on a range of regional and multilateral economic questions of interest to us all.
Economic Cooperation/ ODA
A measure of the importance we attach to our relations with the region is our on-going commitment to the ASEAN Economic Cooperation Programme, and our other bilateral ODA programmes in South East Asia, There are two points I would like to highlight on this occasion. The first is the overall increase in resources we have allocated to ASEAN this year. The amount is up by 16 % over last year. I do want to point out that in recognition of their special development needs, New Zealand’s bilateral assistance to the Mekong countries which have recently joined ASEAN has increased by 50 %.
The second point I would like to emphasise is that we are contemplating some new directions in the ASEAN Economic Cooperation Programme. In the first instance, in view of the expansion of ASEAN’s membership, we will be increasing the funding for this programme by 6 %. We anticipate being able to include all the new members in new projects under this programme, though it may be difficult to alter the scope of existing projects.
In general, I think we are agreed about the basic principles underpinning this programme: it should be of mutual benefit to the members of ASEAN and New Zealand, and it should focus on areas which are of special interest to both ASEAN countries and New Zealand, It has been on this basis that we have developed the programme in the past. Another general point: while we operate on the principle that the programme should have relevant to all the members of ASEAN, I think it is fair to say that in our planning we pay particular attention to the needs and interests of the new and developing members.
In terms of the coverage of the ASEAN Economic Cooperation Programme, we propose to keep in place the overall sectoral focus: that is, science and technology, trade and economic. Within the trade and economic sector, the main emphasis has been on the Trade and Investment Promotion Programme (the TIPP). The goal of the TIPP has been to promote trade and investment between ASEAN and New Zealand. Over 50 projects have been completed, including business facilitation tours, market surveys, regional training and information-sharing. The programme has been wended until the end of 1997.
Current projects under action include an eco-tourism and conservation training programme and metrology training.
Until recently there has been a heavy private sector focus under the TIPP. It is expected this will change, in view of the already steady growth in ASEAN exports to New Zealand and the expansion of New Zealand investment in ASEAN- The orientation of the TIPP will move in the direction of where it is now most needed – to focus on public sector activities in areas such as regulatory reform, standards and conformance. As business linkages expand and diversify, the emphasis will be on removal of barriers and inhibitions to trade.
This new direction for the TIPP is also consistent with the AFTA-CER consultative process. It is intended that the TIPP, which will continue to develop in accordance with standard NZODA procedures, will complement and support ongoing activities under AFTA-CER. In this context, future. TIPP activities will be designed to have particular relevance to the newer ASEAN members by enhancing their ability to participate as effectively as possible in AFTA-CER processes.
My officials will be working with ASEAN officials to make sure that the projects and programmes implemented under the ASEAN Economic Cooperation Programme are effective and meet our mutual needs. We will be consulting fully with you over the shape and content of this programme.
Finally, if I might return to the broad themes of this PMC, I would highlight the significance of 30 years of ASEAN and the contribution the group has made to stability and prosperity in the region. I salute you on the occasion of this anniversary; and the founders of ASEAN for their vision. The contribution of ASEAN has been immense. New Zealand, other dialogue partners, as well as the other members of ASEAN have directly benefited from the formation and development of ASEAN over these 30 years.
The other central theme is the expansion of ASEAN to include all the countries of South East Asia. It will be a truly historic moment, when the process is complete. ASEAN will have the best possible foundation to enter the next millennium and to confront the challenges which that will bring. New Zealand is pleased to be so closely linked with ASEAN at this time.