MR CHAIRMAN,
HIS EXCELLENCY PRESIDENT ESTRADA,
EXCELLENCIES,
DISTINGUISHED GUESTS,
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,

MY DELEGATION WOULD LIKE TO JOIN THE PRECEDING SPEAKERS IN EXTENDING OUR SINCERE CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR UNANIMOUS ELECTION AS CHAIRMAN OF THE 31ST ASEAN MINISTERIAL MEETING.

I ALSO WISH TO EXPRESS OUR APPRECIATION AND GRATITUDE FOR THE COURTESIES EXTENDED TO MY DEDICATION SINCE OUR ARRIVAL. THE ARRANGEMENTS MADE BY THE GOVERNMENT OF THE PHILIPPINES FOR THIS IMPORTANT MEETING ARE EXCELLENT.

I AM CONFIDENT THAT THE OUTCOME OF THE MEETINGS WILL BE COMMENSURATE WITH AND INDEED REFLECT THESE ADMINISTRATIVE ARRANGEMENTS.

THIS FEELING OF A SUCCESSFUL OUTCOME IS FURTHER REINFORCED BY THE INCISIVE AND INSPIRING STATEMENT MADE BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE PHILIPPINES.

MR CHAIRMAN

THE HOSTING OF THIS IMPORTANT MEETING BY THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES FOLLOWS IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE CONCLUSION OF THE CENTENARY CELEBRATIONS OF THE LIBERATION OF THIS COUNTRY. MY COUNTRY WAS HONOURED TO BE INVITED TO THESE CELEBRATIONS AND WAS REPRESENTED BY THE GOVERNOR-GENERAL OF PAPUA NEW GUINEA.

THE ELECTION OF YOUR EXCELLENCY, MR CHAIRMAN AS THE NEW PRESIDENT OF THE PHILIPPINES AND THE PEACEFUL TRANSITION OF POWER ATTESTS TO THE STRENGTH AND VIBRANCY OF YOUR DEMOCRACY. IT UNDERLIES YOUR COUNTRY’S COMMITMENT TO PEACE AND STABILITY IN THE ASEAN REGION TO WHICH ALL OF US ATTACH GREAT IMPORTANCE.

MR CHAIRMAN PAPUA NEW GUINEA AND ASEAN MEMBER STATES HAVE ALWAYS ENJOYED VERY CORDIAL RELATIONS. OVER THE YEARS WE HAVE DEVELOPED COOPERATIVE ARRANGEMENTS WHICH HAVE ENSURED CONSTRUCTIVE AND TANGIBLE BENEFITS TO OUR PEOPLE.

AS THIS IS MY FIRST TIME TO ATTEND THIS IMPORTANT ASEAN MINISTERIAL MEETING AS THE FOREIGN MINISTER OF PAPUA NEW GUINEA, I WISH TO EMPHASISE THAT MY COUNTRY CONTINUES TO PLACE GREAT IMPORTANCE TO ITS RELATIONS WITH ASEAN.

WE CONTINUE TO REGARD ASEAN AS A PRAGMATIC, PROGRESSIVE AND SUCCESSFUL ORGANISATION THAT HAS DEMONSTRATED EFFECTIVE AND EQUALLY INNOVATIVE APPROACHES IN INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS.

PAPUA NEW GUINEA IS EQUALLY COMMITTED TO ASEAN PRINCIPLES AND ASPIRATIONS OF A SECURE AND PROSPEROUS REGION. BOTH ARE MUTUALLY REINFORCING.

MR CHAIRMAN

PAPUA NEW GUINEA HAS MUCH TO GAIN FROM THE EXPERIENCES OF ASEAN MEMBER STATES WHICH HAVE ACHIEVED DYNAMIC ECONOMIC ADVANCES. I INTEND THEREFORE TO EXPAND AND CONSOLIDATE PAPUA NEW GUINEA’S LINKS WITH ASEAN MEMBER COUNTRIES.

IN THIS CONTEXT, I RE-AFFIRM MY COUNTRY’S DESIRE TO SEEK A MORE CONSTRUCTIVE AND ENHANCED POLE AS A “PERMANENT ASSOCIATE” MEMBER OF ASEAN AS WAS ESPOUSED AT THE 30TH ASEAN MINISTERIAL MEETING IN MALAYSIA LAST YEAR.

IT IS OUR FERVENT HOPE THAT YOU WILL POSITIVELY CONSIDER THIS REQUEST.

MR CHAIRMAN

PAPUA NEW GUINEA’S FOREIGN POLLICY CONTINUES TO BE GUIDED BY THE BASIC APPROACH OF ACTIVE AND SELECTIVE ENGAGEMENT.

TO SUPPLEMENT THIS, MY GOVERNMENT INTENDS TO PURSUE A POLICY OF “PARTNERSHIP IN THE ASIA-PACIFIC” TO PREPARE PAPUA NEW GUINEA TO TAKE ITS PLACE IN THE 21ST CENTURY.

THIS FOREIGN POLICY APPROACH SEEKS TO REINFORCE AND STRENGTHEN PAPUA NEW GUINEA’S RELATIONS WITH COUNTRIES OF THE ASIA-PACIFIC REGION, INCLUDING MEMBERS OF ASEAN.

MR CHAIRMAN

THE WORLD AND, ESPECIALLY THE REGION IN WHICH WE LIVE ARE UNDERGOING UNPRECEDENTED CHANGES AND CHALLENGES.

THE FINANCIAL CRISIS AFFECTING SO MANY OF OUR ECONOMIES HAS INCREASED UNCERTAINTY IN COUNTRIES OF THE REGION, INCLUDING TOO MANY OF US IN THE SOUTH PACIFIC SUB-REGION.

FINANCIAL MARKETS IN SEVERAL IMPORTANT EAST ASIAN COUNTRIES HAVE FALLEN DRAMATICALLY IN RECENT MONTHS.

REGIONAL CURRENCIES INCLUDING THE PAPUA NEW GUINEA KINA HAVE LOST VALUE.

A NUMBER OF IMPORTANT MARKETS FOR OUR COMMODITIES HAVE BEEN ADVERSELY AFFECTED.

THESE CALL FOR CONCERTED ACTION FROM ALL OF US, AND I FEEL ASEAN CAN PLAY A PIVOTAL ROLE IN ADDRESSING THEM. ASEAN, WE ARE CONVINCED, HAS THAT PROPENSITY TO HARNESS THE POLITICAL WELL AND ECONOMIC RESOURCEFULNESS WITHIN THE REGION TO OVERCOME THE RECENT SETBACKS.

MR CHAIRMAN

ONE OF THE IDEAS THAT WAS SUGGESTED BY ASEAN LEADERS DURING THE APEC LEADERS SUMMIT IN VANCOUVER IN NOVEMBER 1997 SEEMS EVEN MORE RELEVANT NOW.

I REFER TO THE PROPOSAL THAT FINANCE MINISTERS AND CENTRAL BANK GOVERNORS FROM THE APEC ECONOMIES SHOULD MEET TO CONSIDER THE ORIGINS, DEVELOPMENT AND EFFECTS OF THE FINANCIAL CRISIS AFFECTING SO MANY COUNTRIES IN THE REGION.

THE OBJECTIVE OF IT WAS NOT ONLY HOW BEST WE COULD DEAL WITH SUCH CRISIS BUT ALSO TO WORK OUT MECHANISMS BY WHICH WE COULD CO-OPERATE IN AVOIDING SIMILAR EVENTS IN FUTURE.

IT IS CLEAR THAT IF GOVERNMENTS MAKE THE TOUGH DECISION REGARD, THEN LONG TERM ECONOMIC TRENDS IN THE REGION WILL CONTINUE TO REMAIN PROMISING.

MR CHAIRMAN

PAPUA NEW GUINEA AS PART OF THE ASIA-PACIFIC REGION PARTICIPATES IN A VARIETY OF DIFFERENT FORMS OF REGIONAL SECURITY COOPERATION, INCLUDING THE ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM (ARF).

IN ADDITION TO MEMBERSHIP OF THE SOUTH PACIFIC FORUM AND OTHER REGIONAL BODIES, PAPUA NEW GUINEA IS ALSO PRIVILEGED TO ATTEND AS A SPECIAL OBSERVER AT MINISTERIAL MEETINGS OF THE ASSOCIATION OF SOUTH-EAST ASIAN NATIONS (ASEAN).

PAPUA NEW GUINEA ALSO VALUES GREATLY THE DEVELOPMENT ASSISTANCE PROVIDED TO US AND OUR COLLEAGUE FROM MEMBER COUNTRIES BY IMPORTANT ASEAN MEMBERS WHO ARE ALSO POST FORUM DIALOGUE PARTNERS.

PAPUA NEW GUINEA THEREFORE NEEDS TO LOOK AT – AND TO DEAL WITH THE ASIA-PACIFIC AS A WHOLE.

MY GOVERNMENT’S PROPOSAL TO ENTER INTO A PERMANENT FORM OF ASSOCIATION WITH ASEAN – AND OUR DECISION TO SUPPORT INDONESIA SHOULD IT DECIDES TO BECOME A POST-FORUM DIALOGUE PARTNER FOLLOWING MALAYSIA ARE INTENDED TO STRENGTHEN ASIA-PACIFIC CO-OPERATION.

PAPUA NEW GUINEA INTENDS TO BE A GOOD PARTNER FOR OTHERS SEEKING TO CONSOLIDATE, STRENGTHEN OR DIVERSIFY INVOLVEMENT IN THE ASIA-PACIFIC.

WE WILL CONTINUE TO PURSUE COOPERATIVE INTERACTIONS WITH ASEAN AND INDIVIDUAL COUNTRIES OF ASEAN AS WE MOVE INTO THE YEAR 200 AND BEYOND.

MR CHAIRMAN

I WISH TO CONCLUDE BY REITERATING PAPUA NEW GUINEA’S FIRM BELIEF AND COMMITMENT IN THE PRINCIPLES AND ASPIRATIONS OF ASEAN AS WE LOOK FORWARD TO TIES SUCCESSFUL OUTCOME OF THE 31ST ASEAN AND RELATED MEETINGS.

THANK YOU,