Excellency Minister Primakov
Dear Colleagues,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. First of all, on behalf of our ASEAN colleagues and in my own name, I would like to extend our warm welcome to Your Excellency and other members of the Russian delegation to this annual PMC 9+1 session between ASEAN and the Russian Federation. This meeting would provide us an opportunity to explore possible ways and means to further develop ASEAN-Russia dialogue relations, and to discuss regional and international issues of mutual concern.

2. Our main concern is how to develop further the effective partnership between ASEAN and Russia at a time when the prolonged regional financial-monetary crisis has become global problem, and caused impacts on both sides. The possible worsening can not be ruled out.

3. ASEAN countries have been making extraordinary efforts at the national and regional and international levels to achieve an early economic recovery and mitigating the socio-economic effects. Many strong measures have been taken, especially in intensifying structural adjustments, maintaining the open door policy and integration into the world economy in accordance with specific conditions of each countries. At the same time, ASEAN continues to strengthen its economic integration through accelerated implementation of agreed cooperation programmes, such as AFTA, AICO, AIA, the liberalisation of services with a view to tapping the region’s potentials for development. Nevertheless, under the present international circumstances, no region can solve their own problems if it pursues a closed-door approach. Therefore, while strengthening the intra-ASEAN co-operation to bring into full play the potentials of each member country and those of the Association, ASEAN is determined to promote its external cooperation, continue its outward-looking approach and integration with the world economy. We are of the view that the cooperation and support of the international community is an indispensable factor in ASEAN’s efforts to overcome as soon as possible the ongoing crisis. The ASEAN’s economic recovery does not concern ASEAN member countries alone, but also the international community. ASEAN’s early recovery and continued sustainable development will contribute to the cooperation, development and stability in the region and the rest of the world.

4. Although the Russian Federation is also facing temporary difficulties, ASEAN countries, by no means, take a gloomy view on the prospect of cooperation with Russia and the support from a country having a vast market and great scientific and technological potentials and has become a member G-7 (it is now G-8). Economic reforms taking place in Russia and the transition to the market economy have opened up great opportunities for trade, investment and other forms of our bilateral cooperation. Russia can provide more easy market access for ASEAN products, encourage Russian companies to invest in the ASEAN region, transfer technology and ensure a stable supply of raw materials.

5. We note with satisfaction that although ASEAN-Russia dialogue relationship was established since 1996, it has resulted in enhancing mutual understanding, trust as well as mutually beneficial cooperation. Almost all dialogue mechanisms have been set up and come into operation. The First ASEAN-Russia Joint Cooperation Committee Meeting in June 1997 which has defined principles, mechanism and areas of cooperation between the two sides; and the First ASEAN-Russia Senior Officials Meeting in June 1998 in Moscow are important steps. A number of working groups have been set up to explore possible cooperation in specific areas, particularly in science-technology, economic and trade areas.

6. At our previous meetings, Your Excellency Minister proposed various areas for our cooperation, ranging from transportation infrastructure, energy and biotechnology to aerospace industry. Your Excellency’ proposals demonstrate the potentials for possible cooperation between ASEAN and Russia. These proposals also point out to the possible contribution of Russia to the development of ASEAN and Asia-Pacific region as a whole. These potentials should, therefore, be fully exploited for the interests of both sides.

7. However, we could frankly say that these developments are just the beginning and not commensurate with the potentials and desire of the two sides. So far, no co-operation projects have been implemented and the Cooperation Fund has not gone into operation for project financing. Economic and trade relations have increased, yet at a modest pace. Scientific and technological cooperation has only just got off ground. Cooperation in other areas such as cultural, people-to-people and tourism exchanges is still limited.

8. Such situation has called for our joint efforts to seek appropriate measures aimed at exploiting the potentials to further develop our dialogue relations. We all understand that both sides have their own difficulties. Yet, these can not prevent us from making efforts of cooperation for mutual benefits in many fields. However, we must realize the fact that the knowledge of possible cooperation areas, mechanisms, practices and working style of each side is still limited. Therefore, we should attach importance to undertaking a number of projects with a view to enhancing mutual understanding and confidence. Exchanges, especially among people and businessmen, should be encouraged. Utmost efforts should be made to find out feasible specific fields of cooperation, gradually creating a foundation for the expansion and intensification of dialogue relations in a greater scope and on a more long-term basis. We look forward to hear the opinions of Your Excellency Minister and other delegates on the directions and measures to promote ASEAN-Russia dialogue relations.

9. Further development of ASEAN-Russia relations is of international significance and enjoys general support and sympathy. The maintenance of peace and stability in Southeast Asia is the common interest of both ASEAN and Russia. To this end, ASEAN have enjoyed the support and cooperation of countries outside the region, including the Russian Federation. We noted with satisfaction that Russia attaches ever-increasing importance to Southeast Asia, and the Asia-Pacific region, and commits itself to make greater contributions to security and cooperation in the region. We hope that as a major country, Russia will continue to undertake positive activities in moving the ARF process forward in the right direction as well as in other diversified activities in the interest of peace and stability in Asia and the Pacific.

10. ASEAN welcome Russia’s willingness to accede to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) and her support for the ASEAN Declaration on the South China Sea of 1992. We highly appreciate the Russian Federation’s support for the SEANWFZ Treaty and hope that the Russian Federation will be the first country to accede to the Protocol of the Treaty.

11. ASEAN followed with keen interest the recent changes in relations among major powers, which are moving toward a stable and long-term basis. We hope that the improvement of relations among major powers will positively contribute to the maintenance of peace, stability and prosperity in the region, responding to the interests of regional countries, big or small. In this respect, we believe that Russia’s voice will continue to carry weight.

12. We are pleased to see that bilateral relations between Vietnam and Russia have experienced satisfactory development, paticularly since the visit to Vietnam by H.E. Prime Minister Chernomyrdin in November 1997 and my visit to Russia in May 1998. The forthcoming official visit to Russia by H.E. President Tran Duc Luong in August 1998 will constitute an other important milestone in the development of the traditional friendship and cooperation between our two countries. The further development of Vietnam-Russia bilateral cooperation will certainly contribute to the promotion of ASEAN-Russia dialogue relations as a whole.

13. Finally, on behalf of the Vietnamese delegation, I would like to express my profound gratitude to Your Excellency Minister and other Russian colleagues for their good cooperation. As the country co-ordinator for ASEAN-Russian relations, Vietnam will, together with other ASEAN colleagues, spare no efforts to strive for a better future of our relations.

It is my sincere hope that we shall have a substantial and business-like discussion in a friendly, understanding and constructive atmosphere this afternoon.

Thank you for your attention.