Ha Noi, 30 October 2010

PR-101030c

The East Asian Summit (EAS) Leaders’ meeting today concluded with a unanimous view of ASEAN’s position as the driving force in the evolving, strategically important architecture. At the 5th EAS in Ha Noi, the EAS also saw itself expanding from a 16- to an 18-country grouping, with the formal invitation to the Russian Federation and the United States, who seek to engage more closely with the region.

Both countries, which were in attendance at this year’s EAS as special guests of the Chair, will participate in the EAS starting next year.

The EAS was preceded by a series of meetings between the Heads of State/Government or representative of ASEAN with their counterparts from India, Russia, Australia and New Zealand. The meetings were held alongside the 17th ASEAN Summit.

At the 8th ASEAN-India Summit, the ASEAN Leaders conveyed their appreciation to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of the great importance that India attaches to the ASEAN-India relation and that India considers it as a pillar of India’s “Look East” policy. On the economic front, both sides look forward to the early completion of the negotiations on services and investment under the ASEAN-India Free Trade Area (AIFTA) framework. The negotiations on goods, meanwhile, had been concluded and entered into force on 1 January. The AIFTA will liberalise the tariff for over 90 percent of products traded between the two dynamic regions, including the so-called “special products,” such as palm oil (crude and refined), coffee, black tea, and pepper.

At the 2nd ASEAN-Russia Summit, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and ASEAN Leaders agreed to commemorate the 15th anniversary of ASEAN-Russia dialogue relations next year. Cooperation projects between ASEAN and Russia are funded by the ASEAN-Russian Federation Dialogue Partnership Financial Fund, which was established in June 2007. A number of projects have since been undertaken in the areas of science and technology, small- and medium- enterprises (SMEs), tourism, and human resource development. At the Summit, Russia reaffirmed its readiness to continue its annual contributions to the Fund.

The ASEAN-Australia New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA) was among the topics of discussion at the landmark ASEAN-Australia Summit. The ASEAN Leaders, moreover, noted Australia’s significant contribution to the AANZFTA Economic Cooperation Support Programme, including the AANZFTA Support Unit in the ASEAN Secretariat – all of which are unprecedented capacity building initiatives undertaken within the framework of an ASEAN-Plus FTA. Prime Minister Julia Gillard represented Australia at the meeting.

The AANZFTA was also one of the highlights of the ASEAN-New Zealand Commemorative Summit, which marked the 35 years of their dialogue relationship. There is no better way to illustrate ASEAN and New Zealand’s vision to develop close and increasingly mutually beneficial relations and to strengthen both sides’ economies and advance the people’s welfare than the AANZFTA, reads a Joint Statement issued following the meeting.

The 17th ASEAN Summit and Related Summits concluded with a closing ceremony which saw Viet Nam handing over the ASEAN Chairmanship to Indonesia.