The focus on Asia is an excellent choice. It is timely and reflects Germany’s astute foreign policy. My congratulations.

Rise of Asia

The rise of Asia is basically an economic phenomenon. According to ADB estimates, the continued strong growth of China and India and the sustained economic recovery of newly industrialized economies and most of ASEAN should lead emerging Asia to robust 8.1% GDP growth in 2007 and 7.9% in 2008.

The rise of Asia has been underpinned by a strong external sector, as consumption in the United States and Europe fed into sustained demand for Asia’s exports. The continued rise of Asia, therefore, is contingent upon exuberant Europe and the United States – ASEAN’s traditional economic partners.

But Asia is not one homogeneous place – or one wealthy continent. The 2006 joint progress report of ESCAP, UNDP and ADB on the Millennium Development Goals indicated that while most countries in Asia are on course to achieving the large majority of MDG targets by 2015, at the same time, as a group, the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in the region have among the highest rates of child mortality, maternal mortality and TB prevalence and death in the world.

Therefore, economic development and poverty eradication are the current preoccupation of most governments in Asia. Asia needs favorable external and internal environment to sustain these efforts.

ASEAN’s policy is to enable the favourable external and internal factors for peace and development in Asia to be maintained.

ASEAN has nurtured a generally positive environment for stable and largely cooperative/non-confrontational relations among the major powers impinging on the region and the bigger countries of Southeast and Northeast Asia. This state of affairs is supported by multilateral security dialogue and cooperation, in which ASEAN has played the primary driving force role, such as in the 27-member ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF).

But then again, against the backdrop of regional dialogue and cooperation, Asia has at least four nuclear armed or capable states (China, India, Pakistan, and North Korea). ASEAN Member Countries, on the other hand, have kept Southeast Asia a nuclear weapon-free zone through their 1995 Treaty on SEANWFZ.

Asia is also beset with extremism, terrorism and various forms of transnational crime. These new forms of non-traditional security threats require not only multinational cooperation but also inter-agency collaboration – civil, military and police sectors.

Therefore, in order to sustain the rise of Asia, we need to manage individually and collectively the current strategic situation in the region. This is where the pivotal role of various components of regional multilateral architecture comes in. This is where we need to support the processes of ASEAN Plus Three, the ARF, the EAS, APEC and ASEAN itself.

ASEAN plays an active role in promoting multilateralism and strategic partnership within the Asia Pacific region and between the region and other regional arrangements, such as the European Union.

ASEAN is at the center of a dynamic Asia, but also in the midst of addressing fundamental challenges associated with emerging economies and societies in transition. At the same time, ASEAN requires nurturing too, such as strengthening its institutional capability. The key instrument ASEAN is using is the proposed ASEAN Charter.

ASEAN has been accepted as an “honest broker” for peace and moderation; for dialogue and cooperation. ASEAN needs continued support to play this role efficiently and effectively.

Germany and the EU have supported ASEAN’s growth and progress. This must continue, particularly since the EU remains an inspiration for ASEAN’s own regional integration.

ASEAN’s Community-Building as Contribution to the Rise of Asia

Key Issues :

  • ASPC : ASEAN Charter
  • AEC : Blueprint for the AEC by 2015
  • ASCC : Meeting people’s needs.
  • Narrowing the Development Gap : Not just less developed ASEAN countries; pockets of poverty existed in older ASEAN countries.
  • Centrality of ASEAN : ASEAN is playing the role of the primary driving force of regional and inter-regional dialogue and cooperation : ASEAN is a force for peace and moderation. It needs support to be an efficient/forward-looking “honest broker”.

ASEAN Charter :

Historic codification exercise since the establishment of ASEAN 40 years ago. The Charter will :

  • Confer on ASEAN a legal personality as an inter-governmental organization – no plan to acquire any supra-national authority for any ASEAN organ.
  • Put in place a new improved structure and organizational process.
  • SG and ASEC will be given enhanced mandate to monitor implementation of ASEAN agreements (especially in the AEC) and ensure compliance.
  • SG to continue to report to ASEAN Leaders, and relevant Ministers on implementation and compliance.
  • No sanctions in the Charter. But ASEAN Leaders can consider what to do when there is a case of serious breach of commitment or serious violation of the Charter.

Blueprint for the AEC

  • Imperative of economic integration to enhance the competitiveness of ASEAN Member States individually and ASEAN Single Market and Production Base regionally.
  • To ensure the specific objectives of Single Market and Production Base are realised by 2015, the AEC Blueprint and Strategic Schedule drawn up. ASEAN Leaders will sign a declaration and give the Blueprint and Strategic Schedule binding effect. Details can be seen in the illustrated “AEC House”. The challenge is effective implementation.

Recent ASEAN Economic Performance:

ASEAN has made rapid and competitive integration into regional and global markets for goods, services, investment, and even as a tourism destination. The ASEAN region has accounted for approximately 8.3 per cent of Asia’s total GDP in recent years and generated around 22 per cent of Asia’s total exports, placing the region behind China, Asia’s largest exporter, but ahead of Japan.

At the same time, ASEAN represents a vast consumer market, larger in terms of spending power than India’s, although ASEAN’s entire population is only half that of India.

Given ASEAN’s sizeable consumer market, together with its large, export-oriented production base, the region is potentially very attractive to foreign investment. Indeed, in 2006, foreign direct investment (FDI) to the region rose to US$52.4 billion.

ASEAN continued to sustain positive trend for its trad

e performance as total exports for 2006 increased by 16.5% from US$ 650.63 billion in 2005 to US$ 758.04 billion in 2006.

ASEAN imports increased 13% from US$ 579.64 billion in 2005 to US$ 654.88 billion in 2006. Imports increased by 7% in first quarter 2007 as compared to same period in 2006.

Overall, ASEAN economies grew at an average of 6 percent in 2006 despite the challenges brought about by natural disasters especially in Indonesia, the high oil prices, and the persistent threat of avian flu in several parts of the region.

Meeting People’s Needs

  • Challenges from non-traditional threats to human security :
    • Avian Flu
    • HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases such as malaria and TB
    • Haze and other transboundary environmental degradation
    • Narcotic drugs – despite the efforts to make ASEAN drugs-free by 2015
    • Natural disasters
    • Friction and conflicts arising from migrant workers
  • Need to develop human resources and improve quality of life :
    • Resources for human development
    • Facilitated mobility of professional and skilled labour
    • Cooperation in education, and university network
    • Arts and culture
    • ASEAN languages (although English is the only official working language in ASEAN)
    • Tourism and people-to-people exchanges
    • Sports (Southeast Asia Games once every two years : this year in Nakhon Ratchasima in northeastern Thailand)
  • Lack of public awareness of ASEAN : a continuing institutional concern
    • ASEAN Charter will go for ASEAN anthem, ASEAN motto: One Vision, One Identity, One Community
    • At least ASEAN will try to do more FOR the people, by mobilizing regional and international cooperation to tackle all non-traditional threats to human security
  • ASEAN to be more people-oriented
    • Institutionalized consultations with other stakeholders such as parliamentarians, private sector, civil society and non-governmental organizations.
    • But no plan for any ASEAN Parliament– although the Parliamentarians are now more active and hope to see an ASEAN Parliament in the future.
    • And no plan to seek public referendum on the ASEAN Charter.

Narrowing the Development Gap

Narrowing the development gap (NDG) between new Member States (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Viet Nam) vis-à-vis old Member States has received a great deal of ASEAN attention in the wake of the acceleration of economic integration in ASEAN.

Without NDG initiatives, the gap will widen as the rich become richer, while the poor remain poor.

ASEAN unity will be tested, especially when it comes to deepening the economic integration, or expanding ASEAN’s external economic linkages.

The broader scope of NDG includes poverty alleviation in all lesser-developed regions in ASEAN – not just in CLMV.

Hence, the renewed efforts in sub-regional frameworks like BIMP-

EAGA, IMT-GT

Good ideas for NDG : IAI, infrastructure investments, SKRL, HRD (including attachment of CLMV officials at ASEC), ASEAN Integration Special Preference (for CLMV)

However, the main problem is resource constraint

Centrality of ASEAN

The centrality of ASEAN must be based on, first and foremost, the inner strength of the ASEAN Community. It also depends not only on the form of ASEAN’s external engagement, but also its content. The quality of ASEAN’s leadership is key. Furthermore, it requires ASEAN Member Countries to stay united, increase coordination and participate as a cohesive group with clear common objectives, and with active support of the strengthened ASEAN Secretariat.

In other words, essentially centrality means gearing ASEAN’s external relations towards supporting the community-building and strengthening ASEAN first and foremost.

Opportunities for Germany and the EU

ASEAN-EU Commemorative Summit in Singapore on 22 November 2007 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of ASEAN-EU relations

The Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC) will soon be amended to open it for accession by the EU.

ASEAN Economic Ministers are keen to complete the FTA talks with the EU by the 1 January 2010.

ASEAN has matured as a trading region and has become a significant trading partner of the EU. The EU-25 accounted in 2006 for 12.6% of total exports from ASEAN, and 10.1% of total imports into ASEAN.

Collectively, the 25 EU countries rank first among the sources of foreign direct investment to ASEAN.

Conclusion

ASEAN is an opportunity. Make use of it.

China and India have worked with ASEAN, making ASEAN feel assured that both are committed to regional cooperation and multilateralism in Asia.

The USA, on the other, has been too pre-occupied with other more pressing world issues. Consequently, the USA is lagging behind China and India in engaging ASEAN and East Asia. Yet, the foundation of ASEAN-USA relations is solid. It is necessary to do more public profiling of the ASEAN-USA partnership to reaffirm the strong US interest in the region.

The EU is doing well, and certainly more can be done to intensify ASEAN-EU ties. In this respect, Germany is the key.

ASEAN has endeavoured to keep Southeast Asia and its surroundings conducive to open and peaceful development for advancing globalisation and society. We will continue to strive for this.