ASEAN Secretariat, 29 March 2012

Dr. Michael Yates,

Prof.Dr. Tahlim Sudaryanto,

Excellencies,

Honourable Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Very good morning to all of you.

It is indeed an honour and privilege for me to welcome all of you, on behalf of H.E. Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, the Secretary-General of ASEAN, to the Launch of the newest ASEAN-U.S. cooperation, the USAID funded project Maximizing Agricultural Revenue Through Knowledge, Enterprise Development and Trade (MARKET). The MARKET Project is the follow-up to the U.S. Food Security initiatives initiated by the U.S. Government through the ASEAN-U.S. Technical Assistance and Training Facility (ASEAN-U.S.TATF) Project.

First of all, I wish to take this opportunity to express our sincere appreciation to the Government of United States of America, our Dialogue Partner, for your enduring cooperation and continued support to the economic development of the region.

As you are well aware of, ASEAN is committed to realising the ASEAN Community by 2015. Being home to more than 600 million people, ASEAN recognises food security as a vital component in our effort to build a strong and robust ASEAN Community. As a net surplus region in terms of major food commodities such as rice and sugar, food insecurity issue should be relatively obscure in this region. However, it is not the case. The daunting effect of climate change and frequent natural disasters such as flooding and drought, has contributed to severe fluctuations in crop yields, that have lead to unstable food prices. This uncertainty about yields and prices leads to concerns about food accessibility, as well as higher food prices. The concerns are especially acute among poor households.

The recent food price crisis in 2007/2008 had brought serious concerns over socio-economic impacts to the ASEAN Member States. As a pragmatic approach to address issues of rising food prices, ASEAN has adopted the ASEAN Integrated Food Security (AIFS) Framework and its Strategic Plan of Action on Food Security in ASEAN (SPA-FS) in 2009. This Framework is a foundation for joint cooperation among ASEAN Member States and our partners in addressing long-term food security issues in the region.

It is truly a great pleasure to us that U.S. Government shares the same vision on food security under its global hunger and food security initiatives. The U.S renewed its commitment, beginning with the first ASEAN-U.S. Leaders Meeting in November 2009, to work hand-in-hand with ASEAN to address food security issues in the region. Since 2010, the U.S. Government, through the ASEAN-U.S.TATF Project under the ADVANCE program, had supported ASEAN to enhance partnership on sustainable food trade development with the private sector. MARKET is an important new step in strengthening this partnership.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The cooperation over the past years has contributed significantly to accelerating the implementation of AIFS Framework. We have witnessed impressive progress on building conducive food markets and trade. We will increasingly engage companies and civil society organizations to seek input on food security policy and regional food policy. We will work to achieve solutions through a number of regional and bilateral interface activities, such as public – private sector dialogues. We hope to hold a number of food security conferences to gather private sector inputs, to build on the first such dialogue in October 2010. In 2011, the ASEAN Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry has formally welcomed and initiated an annual high-level dialogue with the private sector to facilitate the mutual goal toward sustainable food security of the region. The dialogue, in-fact, has been encouraged by inputs from a number of sources, including technical discussion and relationships with companies initiated by ASEAN-U.S. Cooperation on food security.

Today, we gather here to formally launch the continuation of this cooperation through this new project on Maximizing Agricultural Revenue Through Knowledge, Enterprise Development and Trade (MARKET). I believe that this project would contribute significantly to ASEAN work in establishing a sustainable food trade in the region and ensuring food security, not only for the people of ASEAN but also to the global world. I am also convinced that in addition to promoting Public Private Partnership (PPP) in addressing food security, the MARKET project will provide an important stepping stone towards ASEAN Economic Community integration in the food and agriculture sectors.

I would like to make a suggestion. Considering the cross-cutting issues covering food security and food trade, ASEAN has engaged a number of partners in implementing AIFS and SPA-FS. I hope MARKET project could link and complement the other initatives and take an active part in the regional discussion and collaboration with other dialogue and external partners. Rest assured that the ASEAN Secretariat would present its utmost assistance to the success implementation of the MARKET Project.

In conclusion, I wish to convey my deepest appreciation to all who had provided their valuable contribution and support in the development of this cooperation. Through this cooperation, we can certainly expect new ideas and initiatives that can help to strengthen our resolve and common goal for a sustainable food trade and food securiy in the region.

Thank you.