Your Excellency Mr. Tang Jiaxuan,
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the
People’s Republic of China,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. On behalf of my ASEAN colleagues, it gives me great pleasure to extend to Your Excellency and distinguished members of your delegation, a very warm welcome to this annual session of the Post Ministerial Conference between ASEAN and the People’s Republic of China. We are especially delighted to welcome you at this meeting as head of the Chinese delegation and, for the first time, as the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Minister Tang is of course no stranger to us, having been involved in the first three ASEAN-China Senior Officials Consultations, the ASEAN+3 and ASEAN+1 Summits in December 1997 and the just concluded ARF Ministerial Meeting. We are confident that under your able leadership, ASEAN’s relations with China will continue to flourish.
2. Though officially, the ASEAN-China Dialogue started two years ago, the process had in fact began in 1992, when consultations first commenced. Since then, both sides have achieved remarkable progress in several areas of cooperation. We have established a number of mechanisms to promote ASEAN- China cooperation in political, economic, trade and functional cooperation areas. Among them are the ASEAN-China Joint Cooperation Committee, Senior Officials Consultations, Joint Committee on Economic and Trade Cooperation, Joint Committee on Science and Technology and the ASEAN-China Business Council. Through these mechanisms, we have been able to achieve considerable progress in translating programmes and projects into concrete action. Today’s meeting accords us a timely opportunity to review the Dialogue’s progress and perhaps more importantly, to chart out the future direction of our relations.
3. Since our last Meeting in Malaysia, there have been significant developments in our dialogue relations. The 2nd Joint Committee on Economic and Trade Cooperation had been successfully convened in Beijing in September 1997 while ASEAN and Chinese Senior Officials held their 4th Consultations in Kuala Lumpur in April 1998. China’s contribution of US$700,000 to the ASEAN- China Cooperation Fund has made possible the implementation of various projects. One such project is the ASEAN-China Personnel Exchange Programme providing for exchange of visits of ASEAN officials to China in October 1997 and Chinese officials to Malaysia, Indonesia and the ASEAN Secretariat in April 1998. These visits had contributed to meaningful people-to-people interactions.
4. We are pleased that China has embarked on several projects aimed at promoting cooperation in the field of science and technology. As China is generally more advanced than ASEAN in this field, especially in areas of biochemical, nuclear energy, space and satellite technology, ASEAN hopes to gain significant benefits from cooperation in these areas. Expanding scientific cooperation to include the exchange of visits of scientists and the conduct of workshops on science and technology as well as the development of scientific and technological potential will certainly contribute towards this objective.
5. We view the inaugural meeting of the ASEAN-China Business Council, the two Chinese trade and investment missions to ASEAN countries as well as the forthcoming ASEAN-China Economic and Trade Seminar as contributing towards the promotion of the ASEAN region as a business and investment center for Chinese entrepreneurs and investors.
6. We see great potential for further ASEAN-China cooperation in the areas of tourism, agriculture, information technology, transportation and aviation as well as human resources development. We are fully aware of Chinese expertise in these fields and ASEAN welcomes such cooperation as part of our ongoing efforts to equip ourselves to face challenges of the 21st century.
7. I am sure, Excellency, you will agree with me that the most important development in the ASEAN-China Dialogue to date was the timely and successful Summit between the Leaders of ASEAN member countries and of China as well as the Summit between the leaders of ASEAN and the three East Asian countries in December 1997 in Kuala Lumpur. We believe that a continuing dialogue among East Asian countries can only bring benefit to the region.
8. The Summit between ASEAN and China had laid down the broad parameters in our relations, paving the way for the heightened cooperation at bilateral and regional levels as we move into the next millennium. At the Summit, we had also committed ourselves to the promotion of economic growth, sustainable development and social progress on the basis of the principles of equality, mutual benefit and shared responsibility. We had also agreed to contribute to the promotion of peace and progress in the Asia-Pacific region and the world, and to respond positively to the challenges of a dynamic regional and international environment.
9. I believe that positive environment engendered has contributed to the readiness of both sides to make serious efforts to facilitate China’s accession to the Protocol to the Southeast Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty. I remain confident that we will be able to resolve our differences in order to fully realize Southeast Asia as a nuclear weapon-free zone. Further, ASEAN will continue to work with China to ensure that the South China Sea remains peaceful and tranquil, on the basis of the principles contained in the Joint Statement between the Heads of State/Government of ASEAN member countries and China.
Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen,
10. The financial turmoil besetting our region has set back the gains that we made over the decades. We have exerted much efforts to promote our economic revival. Individually, each of us has introduced reforms or taken steps which, we were told, would create sound economic fundamentals and strengthen our financial sectors. As a group, ASEAN member countries have continued to pursue policies that would promote confidence as well as an open trading and investment environment in the region. With this in mind, ASEAN is committed to the implementation of the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) which is now on track. We have also established the ASEAN Industrial Cooperation (AICO) Scheme which aims at promoting the sharing of industrial activities between ASEAN-based companies. At the same time, the Framework Agreement on the ASEAN Investment Area (AIA) is being currently negotiated. To expand trade and stabilize our currencies, we are also actively promoting the use of regional currencies in conducting intra-ASEAN trade. At the multilateral level, we have taken various initiatives to promote the reform of the international financial architecture.
11. Notwithstanding all these efforts, the economic relief we seek is, however, not within sight. We realise that with globalisation and the interdependent nature of our economies, ASEAN on its own, is not in the position to overcome the crisis. A prolonged situation will have a global impact on the world economy with serious implications. We need therefore to seek solutions that directly address our particular conditions. It is also evident that our economic recovery requires leadership and concerted action from those of our Dialogue Partners who are among the most important economic players in the world.
12. In this context, it is our fervent hope that the strengthening of ASEAN- China cooperation will serve as one of the vehicles to assist in overcoming the problem. ASEAN is grateful to China for its assurance not to devalue the Renminbi despite pressures upon it to do so. ASEAN believes that, given the sheer size of the Chinese market and the dynamism of the Chinese economy, China can help ASEAN recover faster by providing greater market access for ASEAN products and increasing Chinese investment in ASEAN countries. We view the two recent Chinese trade and investment missions to ASEAN countries as demonstration of China’s support in facilitating our recovery. We are pleased that China intends to maintain a GDP growth rate of 8% by boosting domestic demand through an injection into the Chinese economy US$750 billion for infrastructure development over a period of three years as well as through an expansion of trade and investment. ASEAN looks forward to enhanced cooperation with China in this troubling time for ASEAN countries.
13. In concluding, ASEAN sincerely hopes that this and future meetings will serve to reinforce ASEAN-China relationships as well as to enhance understanding, and cooperation that will bring benefits to both sides.
27 July 1998