Mr Chairman

Your Royal Highnesses

Excellencies

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

On behalf of the Government and people of Papua New Guinea, I have much pleasure in Congratulating you on your unanimous election as the Chairman of the 32nd ASEAN Ministerial Meeting.

I would also like to take this opportunity to express our sincere gratitude to your Excellency, the Government of Singapore for the warm welcome and hospitality extended to us and for the excellent arrangement put in place for the meeting.

Mr Chairman, Papua New Guinea now has a new Government. On 14 July 1999, Honourable Sir Mekere Morauta was elected the 6th Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea by the National Parliament. His overwhelming election (99-5) on the floor of Parliament was a clear signal that the people of Papua New Guinea wanted a change of leadership in order to restore integrity to institutions of state and stabilize the national economy.

The new Government is moving quickly to put Papua New Guinea’s economy back on the track to recovery, details of which will be announced in a mini-budget in August.

The new Government is in a transitional stage with the Foreign Minister yet to be appointed. However, in reaffirming the continued importance and commitment Papua New Guinea attaches to is relations with ASEAN, the Prime Minister has appointed me as his Special Envoy to represent him and the Government at this important Ministerial Meeting.

Mr Chairman, ASEAN has grown from strength to strength since its inception 32 years ago. It has promoted pride and unity among all nations and peoples of Southeast Asia as well as peace and stability in the region.

I would like to take this opportunity to extend, on behalf of the Government and people of Papua New Guinea, our sincere congratulations to the new and tenth full member of ASEAN, the Kingdom of Cambodia. The vision for ASEAN to include all countries of Southeast Asia by the year 2000 has been realized.

ASEAN is now truly and fully a Southeast Asian regional organization.

Mr Chairman, Papua New Guinea’s association with ASEAN has also diversified since our admission as an Observer in 1976 and from 1981 as a Special Observer at ASEAN Ministerial Meeting.

This reflects the maturing and expanding of our relations with the member states of ASEAN. Our association with ASEAN provides us with a sense of assurance and confidence in developing our relations with countries of the region.

As ASEAN grows in membership, so does its scope of cooperation and overall regional and international importance. Papua New Guinea therefore, will continue to explore ways in which we can enhance and diversify mutually beneficial relations with ASEAN and its individual member states.

It is our hope that the expansion of ASEAN will not diminish our valued status as Special Observer at ASEAN Ministerial Meetings. We therefore seek your support of our request for Papua New Guinea’s Permanent Associate status with ASEAN which our Government proposed at the 29th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Jakarta in 1996.

Mr Chairman, in the wider Asia-Pacific context, Papua New Guinea sees ASEAN and its member states as partners not only in trade and economic exchanges but also in the promotion of wider regional and international cooperation.

We believe that by working together, we can help to encourage the level of cooperation by building a bridge linking the Pacific Island countries with Southeast Asian nations and ultimately, with the whole of the APEC region.

We also believe that consultations can help to forestall or resolve differences between countries in the two regions. In this regard, Papua New Guinea is keen to promote closer constructive relations between countries and the two paramount regional organizations in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific, namely ASEAN and the South Pacific Forum.

We would therefore welcome the Secretary General of ASEAN or any high level ASEAN delegation to attend the South Pacific Forum Leaders Meeting for consultations with South Pacific Island Leaders.

Mr Chairman, Papua New Guinea is appreciative of the generous assistance by many countries including ASEAN member states during the Tsunami disaster which struck coastal villages in Aitape in the north of mainland Papua New Guinea twelve (12) months ago last week. The assistance by your governments were made at the time many of your countries were affected by the financial and economic crisis, I would like to take this opportunity to convey our gratitude to your governments.

Mr Chairman, I have been directed to inform this Ministerial Meeting of the Papua New Guinea Government’s decision to reaffirm its commitment to the ‘One China’ policy which successive governments have pursued since independence.

Following a review of the previous government’s recent decision to establish formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Sir Mekere Morauta announced on 21 July 1999 that Papua New Guinea’s longstanding ‘One China’ policy of maintaining state-to-state relations with the People’s Republic of China remains intact.

Prime Minister Morauta also reiterated his Government’s decision to maintain and expand economic and trade cooperation with Taiwan.

To conclude, let me reaffirm the Papua New Guinea Government’s commitment to maintain and expand its relations with ASEAN. We acknowledge the special status accorded us and are confident this special relationship will enhance both political and economic ties with the organization and its member countries.

It is our desire to continue our special relations with ASEAN well into the next century. We are confident that this relationship will be further developed for our mutual benefit.

Thank you.