Mr. Chairman

Excellencies,

1.                  On behalf of the Secretary General of ASEAN, let me first congratulate Viet Nam for the successful hosting of the many APEC Meetings to date. Secondly, we at the ASEAN Secretariat would like to thank Viet Nam for the warm friendship and hospitality extended to ASEAN throughout this APEC year. We wish Viet Nam more success as the APEC Meetings reach their climax with the Leaders’ Meeting in two days’ time.

2.                  Approaching the end of a remarkable year for APEC provides us with an opportunity to reflect on some of the significant achievements. As observer in APEC, we are cognisant of the need to constantly maximise resources and get best possible results from our common endeavours. ASEAN is pleased to see increased involvement and sharing of ideas in the APEC process. In particular, ASEAN has followed the development of trade facilitation in APEC such as the Single Window customs clearance initiative.

3.                  In 2006, like APEC, ASEAN has intensified the ASEAN economic integration agenda. For example, the ASEAN Single Window project to improve customs administration was put through the pilot stage. More alignment of practical measures and harmonisation of regulations and standards took place to ease trading across the ten member countries of ASEAN and to reduce the cost of cross-border commercial transactions.  Our aim of an ASEAN Economic Community, or AEC for short, is therefore moving steadily forward and the ASEAN Economic Ministers have recommended to the ASEAN Leaders to achieve the AEC by 2015 instead of the original target of 2020.

4.                  Year 2006 has also witnessed many initiatives in ASEAN to implement the Plans of Action for the three pillars of community building in ASEAN, namely, political and security cooperation, economic integration and socio-cultural cooperation. We have initiated the process for the establishment of an ASEAN Charter and such a formalisation of ASEAN’s relationships and programmes of work will contribute significantly to the evolution of ASEAN into a substantial regional organisation promoting peace and prosperity for all. The Secretary-General of ASEAN is anticipating that at the upcoming 12th ASEAN Summit in Cebu, the Philippines, on 11 to13 December 2006, the ASEAN Leaders will further advance ASEAN community building with more clarity of goals, specific actions and practical timelines.  

5.         There is much  more to do in building a single market in ASEAN and to advance trade liberalisation in Asia-Pacific region.  ASEAN is contributing to trade liberalisation through its own strategy of negotiating free trade area agreements with key trading partners.  We hope that such FTAs will enable the region to grow well economically and narrow the development gaps among the ASEAN and APEC members. In this connection, ASEAN is pleased to see Viet Nam’s economic progress and the global recognition  of Viet Nam’s considerable efforts with its admission as the 150th Member of the WTO.

Mr. Chairman

Excellencies

6.         In 2005, despite many challenges, ASEAN economies grew at an average of 5.5 per cent.  For 2006, we forecast a similar GDP growth but with a bit of luck, we might reach 6 per cent.  FDI in flows into ASEAN reached US$ 38bn in 2005, an increased of 48%, year on year.  For 2006, FDI in flows in to ASEAN is likely to be better than 2005.  Basically, trade and FDI have flourished in ASEAN but we cannot be complacent as competition is very intense and many challenges remain.  The market factors are more and more sentiments driven than substance-based.  As such, ASEAN must continue to be focused and to implement the plans already laid down.  In so doing, close cooperation with APEC is important.  ASEAN looks forward to strengthening this cooperation with APEC.

Thank you for your kind attention.