The ASEAN-China Eminent Persons Group (EPG) today submitted its report to the ASEAN-China Ministerial Meeting through its ASEAN Co-chairman, Tan Sri Musa Hitam for the consideration of the Leaders of ASEAN and China at the 9th ASEAN-China Summit on 12 December 2005 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The report is a culmination of a year’s work by the EPG comprising a review of the ASEAN-China dialogue relations in the last 15 years and a set of recommendations to strengthen the relations in the next 15 years and beyond as ASEAN and China celebrate their 15th anniversary in 2006 with a number of commemorative activities.

The report reviews the progress of ASEAN-China relations since the early 1990s by which period China had established diplomatic ties with all ASEAN Member Countries.  China was a founding participant in the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and became a Dialogue Partner of ASEAN in 1996.  China acceded to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia in 2003 and in the same year, ASEAN and China proclaimed a strategic partnership between them given the wide-ranging and multi-faceted relations.  ASEAN and China signed the framework agreement that provides for an ASEAN-China Free Trade Area in 2002.

The report recommends that in the next 15 years and beyond, ASEAN and China should strengthen and deepen their strategic partnership on all fronts with focus on economic, political security, social, and cultural cooperation. It emphasises that building on the free trade area, ASEAN and China should exert efforts to facilitate the free flow of goods, services, capital and labour to enhance the linkages between their economies. The report underscores the need to enhance security cooperation to ensure and further promote harmonious relations among neighbouring countries.  It also proposes that ASEAN and China should continue to work closely in contributing to the various regional processes and initiatives and in the promotion of their common interest in the regional and international fora.

In order to achieve the above, the report provides 38 short and medium-and long-term measures to realise this vision taking into account the developments in ASEAN and China and the dynamic developments in the region and the world.  These recommendations encompass the political and security, trade and economic, and social and cultural areas as well as strengthening of the institutional framework for cooperation.

Some of the key recommendations include the promotion of confidence building measures through regular dialogue, exchange and interactions; strengthening cooperation in addressing transnational issues; supporting international efforts in the area of disarmament and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD); the early conclusion of the agreements on services and investment under the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area and enhanced cooperation in the key areas of infrastructure, transport, communications, agriculture and energy;  establishment in Beijing of an ASEAN-China Centre, to promote trade, investment, tourism, education and cultural cooperation; establishment of an ASEAN-China Foundation, and the launching of a prestigious scholarship programme to promote the academic and student exchanges;  the convening of a high-level international meeting on infectious diseases to mobilise international attention and resources; the promotion of open skies policy, visa-free travel, and the setting up of tourism cultural centres; and more people-to-people exchanges, especially in the areas of youth and sports.

The ASEAN-China EPG was established at the 8th ASEAN-China Summit in November 2004 in Vientiane, Lao PDR.  The EPG consisted of the following distinguished persons:  H.E. Tan Sri Musa Hitam (Co-Chairman, Malaysia); H.E. Qian Qichen (Co-Chairman, People’s Republic of China); H.E. Pehin Dato Lim Jock Seng (Brunei Darussalam); H.E. Dr. Aun Porn Moniroth (Kingdom of Cambodia); H.E. Jusuf Wanandi (Republic of Indonesia); H.E. Khamphan  Simmalavong (Lao People’s Democratic Republic); H.E. U Aung Thaung (Union of Myanmar); H.E. Ambassador Rodolfo C. Severino (Republic of the Philippines); H.E. Professor Tommy Koh (Republic of Singapore); H.E. Kasem S. Kasemsri (Kingdom of Thailand); and H.E. Nguyen Manh Cam (Socialist  Republic of Viet Nam).