1. ASEAN Labour Ministers and their counterparts from the People’s Republic of China, Japan and the Republic of Korea convened an ASEAN+3 Labour Ministers Meeting in Mataram, Indonesia, on 9 May 2003, back-to-back with the 17th ASEAN Labour Ministers Meeting. The ASEAN+3 Labour Ministers Meeting was preceded by an ASEAN+3 Senior Labour Officials Meeting on 7 May 2003.
2. The Meeting was attended by Ministers of Labour from ASEAN Member Countries, People’s Republic of China, Japan and Republic of Korea. The ASEAN Secretariat was also in attendance. The list of the ASEAN+3 Labour Ministers is attached.
3. His Excellency Jacob Nuwa Wea, Minister of Manpower and Transmigration of the Republic of Indonesia, in his capacity as Chair of the 17th ASEAN Labour Ministers Meeting, extended a warm welcome to the delegations from the ASEAN+3 countries attending the Meeting. H.E. Jacob Nuwa Wea recalled the words of encouragement by H.E.. Megawati Soekarnoputri, President of the Republic of Indonesia, who stated in her Keynote Address to the 17th ASEAN Labour Ministers Meeting on 8 May 2003, that cooperation in the Southeast Asian region will strengthen through progressive initiatives among the Labour Ministers, and expressed his hope that this cooperation would also bring about greater employment and economic opportunities for workers in the East Asian region.
4. H.E. Jacob Nuwa Wea noted that the ASEAN countries have an opportunity to learn from the experiences of the +3 countries in addressing the impact of globalisation on labour and work opportunities. H.E. Jacob Nuwa Wea observed that economic growth is of the utmost importance for the betterment of the condition of workers in the region, and invited the ASEAN+3 Labour Ministers to further discuss joint measures to address this important concern.
5. H.E. Wang Dongjin, Vice Minister of Manpower and Social Security of the People’s Republic of China; H.E. Yataro Sawada, Vice Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japan; and H.E. Park Kilsung, Vice Minister of Labour of the Republic of Korea, expressed sincere appreciation to their ASEAN hosts for organising the ASEAN+3 Labour Ministers Meeting, and looked forward to the opportunity to strengthen cooperation as well as share experiences in addressing common concerns and challenges in labour.
Addressing the Impact of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in East Asia
6. The ASEAN+3 Labour Ministers noted that challenges such as the uncertain global economic climate, heightened security threat as well as the recent outbreak of the SARS virus have affected economic growth in the ASEAN region. In this regard, the ASEAN+3 Labour Ministers resolved to strengthen greater regional co-operation to overcome these challenges and to ensure the progress of East Asian economies and to minimise job losses.
7. The ASEAN+3 Labour Ministers noted the convening of an ASEAN+3 Ministers of Health Special Meeting on SARS on 26 April 2003 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and the Special ASEAN Leaders Meeting on SARS on 29 April 2003 in Bangkok, Thailand. The Ministers also noted the Special ASEAN+China Leaders Meeting on SARS which was held on 29 April 2003 in conjunction with the Special ASEAN Leaders Meeting on SARS, and had agreed to develop and strengthen cooperation on SARS control and take coordinated measures to reduce and eliminate its multi-faceted impact on the region.
8. The ASEAN+3 Labour Ministers recognised the value of exchanging experiences and information in controlling the spread of SARS among Member Countries. The Ministers also acknowledged that the comprehensive measures taken by the affected ASEAN countries are necessary to prevent the further spread of SARS and to minimise the toll and economic fallout. The Ministers noted with concern the toll that SARS had already taken on the region’s labour and employment situation.
9. The ASEAN+3 Labour Ministers noted the initiative of their Senior Labour Officials to convene a Special ASEAN+3 Senior Labour Officials Meeting on SARS, to discuss joint ASEAN+3 action to address the labour and employment impact of SARS, including occupational safety and health; and to share experience and best practices in helping to ease the impact of SARS on workers and the role to be played by the social partners.
10. The ASEAN+3 Labour Ministers had an exchange of views on major issues on the agenda of the 91st International Labour Conference scheduled to be held in Geneva in June 2003, and tasked their Senior Labour Officials to further coordinate among themselves with regard to issues of common concern on the ILO, such as more equitable allocation of the ILO’s budget, including surplus, for priority activities in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly for the ASEAN countries. Regarding the ILO’s supervisory mechanisms, the Ministers reiterated their position that a review be undertaken to enhance transparency and that the implementation of labour standards should be carried on a promotional basis taking into account the peculiar circumstances and overall development in each member state.
11. Noting the present under-representation of Asia and Pacific personnel at the ILO, particularly the regional offices, and taking into account the significant contributions and population size of the Asia-Pacific region, the Ministers requested for a fair representation of Asia and Pacific personnel at the ILO.
Progress of Cooperation in Labour
12. The ASEAN Ministers thanked China for following up to the recommended work plan generated by the China-ASEAN Higher Level Seminar on Social Security in November 2001, and looked forward to the implementation of the China-ASEAN High Level Seminar on Expanding Pension Insurance Coverage at mutually convenient dates for China and ASEAN in 2003.
13. In this regard, the ASEAN+3 Labour Ministers had an exchange of views on lessons learnt in the provision of social security/social protection to workers, in the light of industrial restructuring taking place due to technological change and economic liberalisation. The Ministers agreed that notwithstanding the differing pace of change due to different levels of development, ASEAN and the East Asian countries have much to share in developing and implementing appropriate policies to address common concerns in the areas of social security and social protection.
14. The ASEAN Ministers expressed sincere appreciation to the Government of Japan’s support for the JIL Invitation Programme for Senior Labour-Related Officials of ASEAN Countries, and for the ASEAN Programme on Industrial Relations which was now in its second year of activities. The Ministers also acknowledged Japan’s contribution and assistance to ASEAN for the establishment of a regional computer-based network that would electronically link all ten members of the ASEAN Occupational Safety and Health Network (ASEAN-OSHNET).
15. The ASEAN Ministers also registered their thanks and appreciation to the Republic of Korea (ROK) for its continued assistance in implementing the annual Human Resources Development Programmes for Officials of ASEAN Countries. The Ministers noted that a Joint Review had been conducted to ensure that future HRD Programmes would be more focused and would address human resource development priorities of the ASEAN Labour Ministers. The Ministers noted that the HRD Programme for 2003 addressed ASEAN’s priorities for labour and employment in the context of globalisation. The Ministers were particularly encouraged that further sharing and exchange of experience in HRD would be facilitated by the Programme’s interactive sessions among ASEAN and Korean officials dealing in HRD.
New Initiatives for Future Cooperation
16. In exploring areas for continued cooperation in the field of labour, the ASEAN+3 Labour Ministers agreed that ASEAN’s priorities for labour and employment reflected current international priorities for labour. The +3 Labour Ministers were pleased to share expertise and experience in the implementation of labour priorities, based on the East Asia Study Group Final Report’s recommendation. In particular, the Report highlighted the importance of implementing a comprehensive human resource development programme focusing on the improvement of basic education, skills training and capacity-building, among others. In this regard, the ASEAN+3 Ministers noted that the objectives of the ASEAN Regional Project on Human Resource Development Planning addressed the call for planning and implementing human resource development in the region. The Ministers agreed that the ASEAN+3 countries could consider joint activities to strengthen regional cooperation in human resource development including the exchange and sharing of best practices and experiences.
17. The delegations of Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam expressed their deep appreciation to the Government and the people of Indonesia for the generous hospitality extended to the delegations and the excellent arrangements made for the Meeting. The Ministers also registered their sincere appreciation to the ASEAN Secretariat for its valuable contributions to the success of the Meeting.
18. The Ministers welcomed with appreciation the kind offer made by Brunei Darussalam to host the next ASEAN+3 Labour Ministers Meeting in conjunction with the 18th ASEAN Labour Ministers Meeting in May 2004.