Phnom Penh, 16 June 2003

Samdech Prime Ministers
Your Royal Highness,
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia, I welcome all of you to Phnom Penh for the 36th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting.  Cambodia is deeply honored to host the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting (AMM), the first time it is doing so since it joined ASEAN in 1999.

In the name of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers, I am most happy to welcome our distinguished colleague, the Honorable Sir Rabbie Langanai Namaliu, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration of Papua New Guinea, Special Observer in ASEAN. I am delighted also to welcome His Excellency Mr. Jose Ramos-Horta, Senior Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, who is with us as the guest of the chairman of the 36th AMM.

We are gathered here at a time of both anxiety and hope. Our meeting will be addressing a number of developments unfolding in the world that have critical implications for the long-term security of our region and of the world and for the economies of our countries and the well-being of our people. We will be looking at ways of mitigating the adverse impact of these events on the people immediately affected, our own people, the security and stability of our region, and the prospects of peace in the world.

At the same time, steps are being taken – and more are being worked out – to hasten and deepen ASEAN’s integration and strengthen ASEAN cooperation in many areas – the facilitation of tourism, the protection of the environment, the fight against terrorism and transnational crime, and other areas of economic and functional cooperation. ASEAN is also strengthening its ties with other countries and regions in substantial ways.

We have sought to mobilize resources for the Initiative for ASEAN Integration which is ASEAN’s key priority, our program for narrowing the development gap within ASEAN, on the basis of a work plan and well-conceived 64 projects. I hope that more response should have been as swift as we expected. I believe more should be done in this area. The implementation of the IAI Work Plan will benefit not only ASEAN’s new members. and ASEAN as a whole, but also Our Dialogue Partners.

All these endeavors were substantially advanced by the actions that our  leaders took at the 8th ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh last November. On that occasion, the first gathering of the Greater Mekong Sub-region took place at the summit level. The GMS leaders, in the presence of the President of the Asian Development Bank, declared their resolve to carry out concrete measures to implement, nationally and cooperatively, programs that are already in place for the development of the Mekong Basin. They agreed on steps to facilitate the cross-border movement of goods and people. One can consider that GMS’s strategy of development would also be part of ASEAN integration, due to the fact that four out of six member countries of the GMS are new members of ASEAN.

At the ASEAN summit, our leaders issued a declaration reiterating their determination to deal with international terrorism in a comprehensive way, signed the ASEAN Tourism Agreement and reviewed the state of ASEAN economic integration and the progress of the study on ASEAN competitiveness. They discussed the idea of creating an ASEAN Economic Community as the way forward for the region.

In our meeting today, we, the ASEAN Foreign Ministers, will renew our commitment to carry out all these decisions, especially in the light of their value for the development of our region. We will, in particular, look at the implications of deeper economic integration and closer cooperation on ASEAN’s institutions and processes.

At the ASEAN+3  Summit, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea submitted the final report of the East Asia Study Group which recommended several concrete measures for the promotion of regional cooperation in East Asia,  including a possible East Asia free trade area and East Asia Summit in the future. We look forward to our meeting with our Northeast Asian neighbors – China, Japan and the Republic of Korea – in the ASEAN Plus Three Foreign Ministers’ meeting tomorrow to discuss ways of accelerating the momentum of closer cooperation.

On the occasion of the Summit, ASEAN concluded with China the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. We regard this as a major contribution to the prospects of peace and the stability of our region. The leaders of ASEAN and China signed a declaration embodying their countries’ commitment to Cooperate in dealing with non-traditional security issues and a landmark framework agreement on comprehensive economic cooperation, including the creation of an ASEAN-China free trade area within ten years.

With Japan’s Prime Minister, the ASEAN leaders issued their Joint Declaration on the Comprehensive Economic Partnership that promises to expand trade and investment between ASEAN and Japan by substantial amounts. We are of the view that the measures for the realization of this partnership, including elements of a possible free trade area, should be carried out as soon as possible.

For the first time, the leaders of ASEAN Leaders and India held a summit meeting and agreed that expanding ASEAN-India relations would now be overseen and directed by an annual summit. We should look for ways and means to deepen and strengthen the cooperation between ASEAN and India, which is envisioned to move towards the creation of an ASEAN-India free trade area. The ASEAN leaders were given a briefing by His Excellency President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa on the New Partnership for African Development.

At the same time, the foundations for stronger economic ties with Australia and New Zealand, with the United States and with the European Union are being laid.

After our meeting, the 36th AMM, we will be convening the ASEAN Regional Forum, the only region-wide forum for dialogue and consultations on political and security issues in the Asia-Pacific. We will also be meeting with all our dialogue partners in the Post-Ministerial Conferences to deal with transnational and development issues.

I wish to take this opportunity to thank my ASEAN colleagues and the ASEAN Secretariat for the cooperation and support that they have extended to Cambodia and to me during Cambodia’s chairmanship of the ASEAN Standing Committee. I am truly grateful to all of you.

To guide us in our work on this occasion, we are deeply honored that His Excellency Samdech Prime Minister Hun Sen has graciously consented to share his thoughts and his vision with us today. On behalf of all ASEAN Foreign Ministers, all Delegates, all ASEAN guests and myself, I would like to extend my deep thanks to Samdech Prime Minister for taking some of his valuable time to preside over this Opening Ceremony of the 36th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting.

May I now invite Samdech Prime Minister Hun Sen to deliver his Keynote Address.

Thank You