Ha Noi, 21 September 2010
H.E. Nguyen Phu Trong, President of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly and President of the National Assembly of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam;
Honourable Members of AIPA Delegations;
Special Observer Delegations;
Guests of the Host;
Let me at the outset express my gratitude to the President of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) for inviting the Secretary-General of ASEAN to the 31st AIPA General Assembly. Unfortunately, H.E. Dr Surin Pitsuwan is unable to be here as he is committed to attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
However, I am delighted to update this august body on some of the recent key developments in ASEAN. I would also like to take the opportunity to congratulate AIPA on its recent signing of the Agreement on Privileges and Immunities between the Government of Indonesia and the AIPA Secretariat in Jakarta. This is indeed a momentous occasion which reflects the growing importance of parliamentarians in ensuring the stability and development of ASEAN.
Looking at the agenda items that you have already agreed this time, I am very sure that the meeting will provide a chance for parliaments to discuss regional and international issues of common interest and also to discuss measures to enhance coordination between ASEAN Member States and AIPA cooperation with external partners.
Ladies and gentlemen;
The theme on “Solidarity for the Sustainable Development of the ASEAN Community” is apt considering ASEAN’s intention to be united by a common desire and collective will to live in a region of lasting peace, security and stability, sustained economic growth, shared prosperity and social progress. We want an ASEAN that is enjoyed by us and our children and their children.
Last year we celebrated ASEAN Day with the theme of “Green ASEAN”, which reflected the three-pronged challenge facing ASEAN: (i) building an environmentally sustainable clean and green ASEAN Community (ii) transforming the “green shoots” of growth in the face of the 2008 global financial crisis into an economically resilient ASEAN anchored
upon green growth and (iii) nurturing the new ASEAN to be a people-oriented organisation respecting and living in harmony with nature. How is ASEAN responding to these challenges, you may ask?
Ladies and gentlemen;
Let me now update you on some of the major developments in ASEAN. ASEAN is 43 years old. It is enjoying a new chapter that will bring the region ever closer to an ASEAN Community. On the economic front, ASEAN has recovered from one of the worst global economic crisis in recent times.
As of 1 January 2010, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand also known as the ASEAN-6 can import and export almost all goods across their borders at no tariff. Meanwhile for Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Viet Nam, the tariff of more than 99% of tariff lines have been reduced to 0-5%. This translates into real savings and eases the cost of doing business in the market place of ASEAN.
ASEAN has signed Free Trade Agreements with six of its major partners, including China, the Republic of Korea, Japan, India, Australia and New Zealand. These FTAs have helped boost ASEAN’s exports especially to China, Republic of Korea and Japan. This only reinforces ASEAN’s key role in the evolving economic architecture in the East Asia/Asia Pacific region.
ASEAN is not only the hub in economic integration initiatives in the region, but it is also a bridge for economic cooperation and engagement among the major players in the world.
On the political side, the 43rd ASEAN Ministerial Meeting (AMM) and Related Meetings held in Ha Noi saw the ASEAN Dialogue Partners in all fora, reaffirming their unequivocal support for ASEAN Centrality. The Meeting reaffirmed ASEAN Leaders’ guiding principles that any new regional framework or process should be complementary to and built upon existing regional mechanisms and the principle of ASEAN Centrality.
You may also recall that the ASEAN Foreign Ministers have agreed to recommend to ASEAN Leaders at the 17th ASEAN Summit in Ha Noi in October 2010 to formally invite Russia and the US to join the East Asia Summit (EAS) with appropriate arrangements and timing which should be based on existing EAS agenda and priorities as well as the established objectives and principles of the EAS.
In a reflection of ASEAN”s growing recognition politically, ASEAN now have 44 Non-ASEAN Ambassadors accredited to it.
On the sidelines of the 43rd AMM, Canada and Turkey acceded to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC), giving a strong signal of their commitment to cooperation with ASEAN as well as to peace and security in the region.
The Third Protocol amending the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC) was also signed by the 27 High Contracting Parties to the TAC. The Third Protocol, upon its entry into force, will enable accession to the TAC by not only States but also regional organisations whose members are sovereign States, such as the EU/EC.
The ASEAN Foreign Ministers reaffirmed the role of AICHR as the overarching institution for regional cooperation in human rights and approved the high priority programmes and activities (2010-2011) of AICHR together with the proposed budget for this period. I understand that today in Kuala Lumpur AICHR has just started to discuss the implementation of this mechanism.
ASEAN has also agreed to officially conclude the mandate of the ASEAN Humanitarian Task Force for the Victims of Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar (AHTF), and the Tripartite Core Group (TCG) in Myanmar by 31 July 2010. The experience and knowledge gained will be institutionalised and the ASEAN Secretariat should be the repository of good practices and lessons learnt.
Understanding that sustainable development is closely linked with reasonable and equitable utilisation of resources, we welcome further cooperation among ASEAN Member States and regional institutions, such as, inter-alia, the Greater Mekong Sub-region, the Mekong River Commission, and encourage the contribution of ASEAN’s partners to such cooperation in order to promote sustainable development of each Member State and the region.
Ladies and gentlemen;
This year, under Vietnam’s chairmanship, ASEAN and AIPA have taken on the responsibility to lead the process ensuring sustainable development towards the ASEAN Community. At the 28th ASEAN Ministers on Energy Meeting (AMEM) on 22 July, held in Da Lat, with its theme “Energy and Climate Change”, ASEAN Member States reinforced ASEAN cooperation priorities and commitment to action for sustainable development and in addressing global and regional pressing challenges.
ASEAN Ministers are implementing existing initiatives to support greener economic activities to maintain sustainable development in the region, with flagship projects on electricity, gas and oi
l pipelines, energy efficiency, renewable energy and clean development mechanism. ASEAN will be engaging more with the private sector, dialogue partners and international community to develop low carbon economies.
Under the East Asia Summit Dialogue, ASEAN, Australia, China, India, Japan, the ROK and New Zealand cooperate in the areas of improving energy efficiency, use of cleaner energy, including renewable and alternative sources of energy and promoting energy market integration.
Notably, under the EAS Energy Market Integration work stream, the participating countries are working on possible removal of trade and investment barriers in energy sector. Cooperation is also encouraged with international financial institutions to provide ASEAN with support in terms of investment in energy efficiency and to develop effective tools for facilitating such investments.
We are also reminded of AIPA’s meeting on “Post Financial-Economic Crisis and the Issue of Sustainable Development: The Role of Parliamentarians” in Da Nang from 7 – 10 March 2010. This important meeting recommended that parliamentarians continue to promote bilateral and multilateral exchanges between Member States to improve legal frameworks that sustain development and continue the reform agenda on economy.
Parliamentarians are encouraged to maintain the fostering of economic growth and to take active role in sustainable development. They have recommended that there must be enhance technology transfer to assist member countries to develop manufacturing sectors, clean energy sources and green technologies, minimising the impacts of climate change, and preventing natural disasters.
Honourable Ladies and gentlemen;
I sincerely hope that we can build on what we have already achieved in the past. It is less than 5 years now as we move towards the realisation of the ASEAN Community. We need to have strong partnership between the ASEAN government machinery, the ASEAN Secretariat and of course, with you, our representatives of the people. Building the ASEAN Community needs the support from the legislatures in ASEAN. AIPA plays a critical role in this endeavour.
Through your respective constituencies, we would be able to more effectively communicate ASEAN’s vision to our citizens emphasising the importance of sustained development to ensure future generations enjoy the fruits of our labour. This would then really put meaning to our words that our peoples are at the centre of our community-building efforts, and of building a caring and sharing community.
I am looking forward to having continuous exchange and productive relations with AIPA as we march into the goal of the ASEAN Community by 2015.