1. The Twenty-first Meeting of the ASEAN Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry (AMAF) was held on 28 – 29 November 1999 in Bandar Seri Begawan, attended by:
- H.E. Pehin Dato Haji Abdul Rahman Taib, Minister of Industry and Primary Resources of Brunei Darussalam (Chairman)
- H.E. Mr. May Sam-Oeun, Secretary of State of the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Cambodia; (Vice Chairman)
- H. E. Mr. Rahardjo Djojonegoro, Ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia to Brunei Darussalam;
- H.E. Dr. Siene Saphangthong, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Lao PDR;
- H.E. Datuk Amar Dr. Sulaiman Haji Daud, Minister of Agriculture, Malaysia;
- H.E. Dato’ Hishammuddin Tun Hussein, Deputy Minister of Primary Industries, Malaysia;
- H.E. U Ohn Myint, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation, Myanmar;
- H.E. Mr. Edgardo J. Angara, Secretary of Agriculture, the Philippines;
- H.E. Mr. Mah Bow Tan, Minister for National Development, Singapore;
- H.E. Mr. Pongpol Adireksarn, Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Thailand;
- H.E. Mr. Le Huy Ngo, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Vietnam; and
- Honorable Dr. Suthad Setboonsarng, Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN
and their delegations.
2. The Ministers welcomed Cambodia who attended this Meeting as a full Member for the first time.
Agriculture and Economic Recovery
3. The Ministers welcomed the positive indicators on the economic recovery in the region. The Ministers noted the important role of the agriculture sector in absorbing the impact of the shock from the crisis in the past two years and exchanged views on the future direction of the role of agriculture in sustaining the recovery process.
4. The Ministers noted that prices of primary agricultural and forestry commodities have been declining during the past two years. As ASEAN embarks on the recovery process, competition in the world market becomes a big concern. Thus, the process of improving ASEAN standards and qualities of agriculture and forest products must be concertedly pursued if ASEAN is to remain as a key player in an ever-increasing competitive global market. At the same time, the Ministers called on the developed countries to keep their market opened as the smooth recovery in ASEAN is also important for the stability in the world economy.
5. The Ministers reviewed the progress of regional cooperation activities in the areas of food, agriculture and forestry, and provided important guidance for future undertakings. They noted with satisfaction the progress made in the beginning year of the implementation of the ASEAN Strategic Plan of Action (1999-2004) in these areas which had proceeded according to schedule under the respective ASEAN bodies. Member Countries have also forged further cooperation in joint approaches towards a number of international and regional issues pertaining to trade in agriculture and forest products and the implications to the environment.
Improving ASEAN Competitiveness
6. The Ministers stressed the need for agricultural and forestry products to be of high standard and quality, conforming to those that are internationally recognized, in order to access international markets. They called for efforts to develop and enhance the adoption of improved production technologies as well as products diversification and harmonization of regulations and measures that affect product standard and quality. Towards this end, the Ministers have agreed to a number of project proposals in food, agriculture and forestry.
7. At this Meeting, the Ministers have endorsed five additional guidelines, namely:
- The ASEAN Halal Logo;
- The Harmonized Regulations on Food Irradiation in ASEAN;
- Harmonized Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs);
- The Protocol for Accreditation of Animal Vaccine Testing Laboratories; and
- Criteria for Accreditation of Day-old Chicken and Hatching Eggs, and Day-Old Duckling and Hatching Eggs Establishments.
8. The Ministers noted that, with the ASEAN Halal Logo as an integral part of the ASEAN General Guidelines on the Preparation and Handling of Halal Food, the Halal Guideline will be in full operation. The Ministers recommended that relevant national institutions and food and agricultural products producers, processors and exporters in ASEAN Member Countries apply these Guidelines because the adherence to these good practices will facilitate and enhance their trade in ASEAN and with the rest of the world.
9. In order to make this information available to the general public, the ASEAN Secretariat will publish these guidelines and also put these guidelines in the website of the ASEAN Secretariat – the ASEANWEB (www.aseansec.org).
10. In view of the importance of promoting R&D activities, the dissemination of research findings and the sharing of information in the area of agriculture, fisheries and forestry among ASEAN, the Ministers agreed to establish the Agriculture R&D Database Center (ARDC). In addition, the Ministers agreed to set up a Technical Assistance Programme on Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Forestry to consolidate the technical know-how to help the least developed areas in ASEAN.
ASEAN Guidelines on the Risk Assessment of Agriculture-related Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)
11. The Ministers noted the importance of biotechnology in increasing the productivity of agriculture and recognised the need to have a better understanding of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The Ministers agreed that there was a need to improve public understanding and awareness on GMOs. The Guidelines would serve as a scientific basis to evaluate GMOs and to begin this educational process. These Guidelines focuses on science based risk assessment of GMOs and are not in conflict with current international discussions and negotiations on biosafety and biodiversity. In this regard, the Ministers endorsed the ASEAN Guidelines on Risk Assessment of Agriculture-related Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). The Guidelines would provide a common framework when Member Countries need to undertake risk assessment of GMOs.
12. These Guidelines mark the start of closer collaboration among ASEAN Member Countries to share their resources and experiences in addressing this issue.
Importance of International Markets
13. The Ministers underscored the need for ASEAN to continue to undertake concerted efforts to make known and further promote the region’s products in the world markets. Given the intensity of competition in the world agricultural product markets, the Ministers agreed to deepen and broaden their collaboration efforts in addressing issues that ASEAN encountered in the international market.
14. In particular, and recognising that crucial issues will be taken up in the forthcoming WTO Ministerial Conference in Seattle and the subsequent Round of Negotiations on the Agriculture Agreement, the Ministers underscored the need to take a common stand towards the elimination of non-tariff barriers, especially trade practises and measures prejudicial to ASEAN agriculture and forestry.
15. Specifically, the Ministers agreed to closely collaborate in the development of and support for common stand on:
- the elimination and prohibition of export subsidies and other trade distorting support employed by some developed countries;
- substantial reductions and stricter disciplines in domestic support; and
- more meaningful special and differential treatment for developing countries.
16. In this connection, the Ministers endorsed the Revised ASEAN Cooperation and Joint Approaches in Agriculture and Forest Products Promotion Scheme so as to extend the implementation period of the scheme for another five years beginning 28 August 1999, as well as to allow for participation of new members of ASEAN in the Scheme. The Ministers also agreed to include new products in the schemes, namely tea, peas and beans, logs, sawn timber, panel products, and Builders’ – carpentry and Joineries (BCJ).
17. With regards to the EC Directive on Hygiene of Foodstuff (96/3/EC) which requires designated transportation vehicles for food products, the Ministers urged the EC to consider relaxing the requirement for the export of vegetable oils from ASEAN countries. Considering the economic impact on ASEAN, the Ministers also directed the ASEAN Secretariat to explore all other feasible collective measures which ASEAN may take to cause the relaxation of the requirement as the soonest possible time.
Sustainable Agricultural Development in ASEAN
18. Notwithstanding the urgency to pursue increased and sustained agricultural production, the Ministers reiterated their commitments to protect the environment and agreed to coordinate this effort with other ASEAN bodies. In this connection, the Ministers noted the good progress made in the effort to develop the Criteria and Indicators (C&I) for Sustainable Forest Management in ASEAN based on the ITTO definitions and terminologies.
19. On the use of pesticides and other chemicals in crops production, the Ministers have endorsed another 34 harmonized values of maximum residue limits (MRL) for five pesticides for several vegetables which are being widely traded between ASEAN Member Countries. This effort, while ensuring quality and safe vegetables for consumption and helps enhance facilitation of trade in these products, also prevents degradation of the environment from excessive use of harmful agricultural chemicals.
Regional Food Security and Safety
20. The Ministers were also aware that the economic crisis also signalled that more must be done to ensure food security in the region. Without doubt, the task of ensuring food security for all is a complex and formidable challenge. It entails combined and simultaneous actions on many fronts in our respective national settings, including the implementation of macro-economic reforms, increased investments in research and development and judicious use of scarce resources. The Ministers urged Member Countries, through the ASEAN Food Security Reserve Board, to improve the efficiency of food security arrangements in the region.
21. Noting the increase in the frequency of disease outbreak and food poisoning incidences in the world market, the Ministers agreed that an ASEAN Early Warning System for Agricultural Hazards be established to monitor such incidences within and outside the region, provide up-to-date information and a mechanism to coordinate mutual assistance once there is a problem in Member Countries.
Forging External Linkages
22. The Ministers noted the good progress made in the collaborative activities with the Closer Economic Relation (CER) countries (Australia and New Zealand) in pest risk analysis for some selected commodities and welcomed the cooperation in the electronic transfer of certificates and permits.
23. The Ministers endorsed the signing of the MOU with USDA to provide an initial framework for collaborative activities with USA.