Co-Chairman, Excellencies and Delegates,
On behalf of my ASEAN colleagues, it gives me great pleasure to extend a very warm welcome to our Canadian friends, the Honorable William Graham and members of his delegation to this annual session of the Post Ministerial Conferences. I hope you are enjoying your stay in Jakarta especially with the warm hospitality and excellent facilities extended to us by our host, Indonesia.
As our Session here today coincides with your celebration of Canada Day, may I convey our heartiest congratulations to you and through you, to the Government and people of Canada on this auspicious occasion.
Brunei Darussalam is indeed honoured to be the Country Coordinator for the dialogue relationship between ASEAN and Canada for the second time. We once again have the pleasure of working with Canada. I am glad that our officials have worked very closely together over the past year and the ASEAN-Canada Dialogue Meeting was convened in Bandar Seri Begawan three months ago. Today, your presence here provides us with the opportunity to further consolidate our dialogue relations. Let me also take this opportunity to express our appreciation to His Excellency Hor Namhong, for his valuable contribution during Cambodia’s role as the country coordinator for the ASEAN-Canada dialogue relations.
The international situation today is faced with many complex and profound changes. While we continue to strengthen peace and stability in our region, ASEAN is not spared from the challenges brought about by global developments such as terrorism, transnational crimes, environmental degradation and emerging infectious diseases. At the same time, we remain to be very concerned with the current security situation in the Korean Peninsula, the Middle-East and Iraq.
Against this backdrop, ASEAN is working towards realizing our Leaders’ vision of an ASEAN Community by 2020, comprising three pillars, namely political and security cooperation, economic cooperation, and socio-cultural cooperation. We are therefore intensifying cooperation among ourselves and engaging our friends and major partners. A stable, prosperous and integrated ASEAN will undoubtedly benefit our partners. This is where we feel the strengthening of our dialogue with Canada can add value to ASEAN’s ultimate objective.
We attach great value in our relationship with Canada and are glad that Canada is keen to have an enhanced dialogue with ASEAN. Over the years, our relations have grown in. various cooperative areas which have significantly contributed to the region’s developments and brought about mutual benefits to our peoples.
Although we are distance apart geographically, many factors have naturally brought us closer together.
Many of us here have well-established bilateral ties with Canada, which form an important aspect of our relations. For Brunei Darussalam especially, we have enjoyed close cooperation with Canada in the areas of defence, education exchanges and environment. We have your people working and residing in Brunei and a lot of our people have been trained in Canada in a number of areas.
The so-called “human factor” has been a very important feature of our relationship. Canada is host to a number of Southeast Asian communities. The people-to-people links, as well as the networking among all those concerned in both our public and private sectors, have helped to build bridges between ASEAN and Canada. This is particularly facilitated by the growing number of our students in your country as Canada is increasingly becoming a more popular destination for them.
Another factor that binds ASEAN and Canada is the increasing trade and investment flows. I am pleased to learn that ASEAN’s exports to Canada had risen by more than 40% over the last decade with an annual two-way trade that is worth 10 billion Canadian dollars and this is growing. ASEAN is also Canada’s largest destination for foreign direct investment in Asia and ASEAN’s FDI in Canada has grown by more than ten-fold in the last ten years. I believe that for many of us, bilateral and regional trade and investments have contributed much to our own economic growth and I see good prospects for greater cooperation in these areas.
So, in terms of the strength of our relations, it is evident that we have laid a solid foundation for a lasting and valuable partnership.
Coming back to our dialogue process, I see great potential for our relations to grow from strength to strength. When our dialogue began 27 years ago, emphasis was given to the promotion of development cooperation. It then expanded to include economic cooperation with the signing of the ASEAN-Canada Economic Cooperation Agreement five years later.
Over the years, through our meetings at the Post-Ministerial Conferences and the ASEAN Regional Forum (A.R.F), we have been able to take up political and security matters of mutual concern. We appreciate Canada’s multilateral approach and this common interest has placed our dialogue relations on a firmer ground.
In view of the many opportunities and challenges we are facing, it is important for us to constantly ensure that our dialogue relationship continues to be relevant and more effective.
Having said that, Mr. Co-Chairman, I would like to thank you for your own personal interest and efforts, as well as those of your officials, in moving our dialogue relations forward. I recall the three important proposals you made last year and I am happy that we have achieved good progress in terms of their implementation. Under your proposed “Exchange of Experts”, two activities were undertaken with a visit to the ASEAN Secretariat by the representatives of the Asian Institute of the University of Toronto last November and the convening of the Workshop on “Regionalization in the 21st Century: An ASEAN-Canada Dialogue as Part of Opening Up of New Cross- Pacific Exchanges” at the ASEAN Secretariat last March.
In particular, I am delighted with the fruitful outcome of the ASEAN-Canada Dialogue held in Bandar Seri Begawan last March in revitalizing and broadening the scope of our relationship. I learn that the Meeting agreed on the need to widen cooperation in economic, political and security matters including new dimensions in trade and investment and specific areas ranging from tourism, education, human resources development, information communications technology, health and culture. We also appreciate Canada’s readiness to work with ASEAN in implementing the ASEAN Plan of Action to Combat Transnational Crime.
The Dialogue Meeting was also a good opportunity to exchange views on some important international issues and share each other’s experiences in AFTA and
With regard to your idea of a trilateral development cooperation mechanism, this can form a good basis for both sides to discuss the development cooperation further. I also welcome the proposed ASEAN-Canada Partnership Symposium and I am pleased to inform that Brunei Darussalam is prepared to host it. The Symposium will provide the opportunity to familiarize ASEAN member countries with Canada’s development programmes and exchange views on the possibility of developing projects in areas such as ICT, animal health and food safety standards. I feel that we have to build on the current momentum and fully realize the potentials in our development cooperation.
I am pleased to note that both ASEAN and Canada have stressed the need for closer economic cooperation. I would like to encourage Canada to take advantage of ASEAN’s collectively bigger market through its Free Trade Area and its economic and trade linkages with major Dialogue Partners like China, Japan and India. This is especially true once ASEAN has firmed up its free trade areas with many of its Dialogue Partners.
We therefore support the reactivation of the ASEAN-Canada Business Council and welcome Canada’s proposal to hold an ASEAN-Canada Trade and Investment Summit in Toronto in April next year.
I am encouraged to learn that both our senior economic officials are making preparations for a meeting soon to look into ways of deepening our trade and investment ties as well as to follow-up Canada’s idea for a Joint Analytical Study on ASEANCanada trade and investment relationship. I believe the study will enable both sides to identify opportunities and challenges related to regional and bilateral trade and its result will serve as invaluable input to the Toronto Summit.
We have many areas of mutual interests to pursue in our dialogue agenda. With our shared commitment to have regular meetings between our senior officials, I am optimistic that we will be able to keep the momentum going. I look forward to hearing more positive developments in our dialogue relations when they meet for the next ASEAN-Canada Dialogue in Vancouver next April.
In conclusion, I can say that we are now on the right track to enhance ASEAN-Canada relations and cooperation. Brunei Darussalam, as the country-coordinator is committed to press ahead with currents efforts as our dialogue has been rightly referred to as “ASEAN and Canada: Partners for the 21st Century”.