1. The ASEAN Plus Three Labour Ministers Meeting was convened in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam, on 14 May 2004, in conjunction with the 18th ASEAN Labour Ministers Meeting. This was their fourth such meeting since ASEAN Plus Three Labour Ministers first met in May 2001. The ASEAN Plus Three Labour Ministers Meeting was preceded by an ASEAN Plus Three Senior Labour Officials Meeting on 12 May 2004.
2. The Meeting was attended by Ministers responsible for labour from ASEAN Member Countries, the People’s Republic of China, Japan and the Republic of Korea, and their respective delegations. The ASEAN Secretariat was also in attendance. The list of the ASEAN Plus Three Labour Ministers is attached.
3. ASEAN Labour Ministers informed their Plus Three counterparts of the current activities and planned initiatives to respond to the opportunities and challenges brought about by globalisation and economic liberalisation. The ASEAN Plus Three Ministers recalled that when they first met in May 2001, the priorities of the ASEAN Labour Ministers Vision and Mission Statement, as encapsulated in the ASEAN Labour Ministers Work Programme, given its emphasis on strengthening human resources in the context of closer economic integration and globalisation, continues to be relevant.
4. The ASEAN Plus Three Labour Ministers recalled that the Joint Statement on East Asia Cooperation, adopted in November 1999, had called for heightened cooperative efforts in social and human resources development, to alleviate economic and social disparities within and among East Asian countries. In the spirit of the Joint Statement on East Asia Cooperation, the Ministers agreed to continue the existing momentum of ASEAN Plus Three cooperation established in the field of labour and human resource development.
5. The Plus Three Ministers noted with interest that the 9th ASEAN Summit held in October 2003 in Bali, Indonesia had adopted the Declaration on ASEAN Concord II (Bali Concord II) where the link between ASEAN’s economic and social agendas was highlighted. The Plus Three Ministers noted in particular the Bali Concord II’s commitment to ensure that ASEAN’s work force would be ready for, and benefit from, economic integration by investing more resources for basic and higher education, training, science and technology development, job creation, and social protection.
6. The Plus Three Ministers echoed the sentiments of the Leaders of China, Japan and the ROK who had expressed their “strong support for the Bali Concord II as a solid platform to achieve an ASEAN Community based on political security, economic and social-cultural cooperation” The Plus Three Ministers expressed their interest to explore opportunities for collaboration with the ASEAN Labour Ministers to address priorities for developing and enhancing human resources as a key strategy for generating employment, alleviating poverty and socio-economic disparities, and ensuring economic growth with equity.
ASEAN Plus Three Initiatives for Labour
7. The ASEAN Plus Three Labour Ministers recalled the pledge made at their meeting held in May 2003 in Mataram, Indonesia, to follow up on the employment-related measures recommended by the ASEAN Leaders at the Special ASEAN Leaders Meeting on SARS on 29 April 2003 in Bangkok, Thailand. In this regard, the Ministers were pleased to note the recommendations of the Special ASEAN+3 Senior Labour Officials Meeting on SARS, held from 2 to 3 July 2003 in Manila, Philippines. The Ministers expressed appreciation to the Philippines for hosting and organising the Special Meeting. The Ministers welcomed the joint initiatives proposed by the Special Meeting to address the impact of SARS on labour and employment, as well as emerging communicable diseases, particularly through maintaining vigilance in the area of occupational safety and health, and developing national and regional policies on SARS prevention and control at the workplace through tripartite efforts.
8. The ASEAN Ministers thanked China for promoting the sharing of experience on strengthening social security and social protection, through the implementation of a series of annual China-ASEAN High-Level Seminars starting in 2001. The ASEAN Ministers were of the view that the High-Level Seminars were beneficial for ASEAN Member Countries and China in exchanging experiences in the field of labour and social security, given the accelerating pace of economic liberalisation in the region.
9. The ASEAN Ministers expressed sincere appreciation to the Government of Japan for its support to implement the three-year ASEAN Programme on Industrial Relations which had now completed its second year of activities. The ASEAN Ministers also thanked Japan for its proposal on the “ASEAN-Japan Collaboration Programme for Strengthening the Basis of Human Resources Development in CLMV (2004-2007).” The ASEAN Ministers looked forward to greater opportunities to work with Japan to facilitate partnerships and collaboration in HRD under this project. The ASEAN Ministers also welcomed the inclusion of labour-related activities in the ASEAN-Japan Plan of Action adopted by the ASEAN-Japan Commemorative Summit in December 2003.
ASEAN-Republic of Korea (ROK)
11. The ASEAN Plus Three Labour Ministers welcomed Japan’s proposal to convene the Asian Conference on the Future of Youth in December 2004, with the aim of facilitating sharing of experience on youth employment concerns and challenges in the region. The Ministers noted that youth employment is an important concern for all the ASEAN +3 countries and that the Conference would also be of interest to the ASEAN Ministers responsible for youth. The Ministers agreed to ensure the active participation of their countries at the Conference.
12. ASEAN Ministers thanked the People’s Republic of China, Japan and the Republic of Korea for supporting activities on human resources development and noted that the activities had made important contributions to addressing the HRD and skills training needs of ASEAN’s newer members. The Ministers looked forward to further opportunities for collaboration.
13. The ASEAN Plus Three Ministers had an exchange of views on the issues to be addressed at the 92nd International Labour Conference (ILC), including the proposal for a revised Recommendation on Human Resource Development and Training, the proposed General Discussion on Migrant Workers, and the Report of the World Commission on Social Dimensions of Globalisation. The Ministers also noted the importance of supporting the work of the Asia-Pacific Group (ASPAG) to prepare for the ILC and other ILO meetings.
15. The Ministers looked forward to further share and exchange views on matters concerning labour, employment and HRD in the East Asian region, at their next meeting to be held in conjunction with the 19th ASEAN Labour Ministers Meeting in 2006.