The Honourable Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Tun Razak
Prime Minister of Malaysia and Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor
Your Royal Highness
Distinguished ASEAN Colleagues
Excellency Le Luong Minh, Secretary-General of ASEAN
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. It is indeed a privilege and an honour for me to extend my deep appreciation to the Honourable Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak, for being here this morning to officiate the opening of the 48th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting (or in short, the AMM).
2. I am also pleased to officially welcome my ASEAN colleagues to Kuala Lumpur to attend the 48th AMM. I would also like to acknowledge the presence of and welcome the Foreign Ministers of Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste, Norway and Turkey.
3. Our meeting at the 26th ASEAN Summit last April was, I believe, a wholly positive experience for us all. A showcase of the goodwill and camaraderie between our nations. An unequivocal endorsement of our accord. We secured full support for the eight priorities of our ASEAN chairmanship, we adopted three important new documents, and we accelerated our efforts in implementing the Roadmap for our ASEAN Community.
4. ASEAN community is a community where the citizens of ASEAN have a sense of belonging and identity to ASEAN. The establishment of the Community by the end of this year is very significant as it signals to the rest of the world how far and how well we have achieved in coming together as one community. It is a historic milestone for us and the region as a whole and a culmination of ASEAN’s resilience and dynamism throughout a journey that spans nearly half a century.
5. ASEAN Community will bring new opportunities to the people of ASEAN and the broader global community. These include continued peace, stability and harmony in the region that will allow our people to pursue their dreams and free from threats or dangers; bigger, more open and freer markets for the business community, better health for our peoples including our children and women, educational opportunities and sustainable environment.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
6. One of the key objectives of Malaysia’s Chairmanship has been to foster a people-centred ASEAN. That is why we have been reaching out. Reaching out to the ordinary people, to mothers and fathers, to students and workers, to supporters and naysayers. Spreading the understanding that ASEAN gives our region an elevated place in the global economy. Inculcating the message that ASEAN benefits us all, country by country, business by business, and person by person.
7. We are also demonstrating how a people-centred ASEAN respects our diversity. This goes right to the core of ASEAN – to that wonderful notion of promoting economic and social wellbeing through understanding, neighbourliness and cooperation among nations. ASEAN is stronger for being open to the differing perspectives of all our people, and for respecting so many different cultural and theological ideologies. It gives us a more nuanced view of the challenges that face our region and our world.
8. The issue of the South China Sea is a prime example. ASEAN can and should play a vital part in effecting an amicable settlement. One that respects the dignity of each nation. Above all, we must be seen to address these issues peacefully and cooperatively. We have made a positive start. But we need to do more. Let this be the day we say we will do more.
9. Of course, we face challenges far outside our borders too. But this is nothing new.
10. When ASEAN was formed, the conflict in Vietnam was raging. In that climate of fear and uncertainty, the Foreign Ministers of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand met in Bangkok and agreed to the landmark ASEAN Declaration, or what is known today as the Bangkok Declaration. Our leaders had the foresight and looked to the future, and spoke of building a new society that was responsive to the needs of their time and equipped to bring about peace, stability and progress.
11. Today, with global stability under threat from terrorism and economic uncertainty, I would like us to look to the future. Can we afford to be as positive in predicting the tenor of days to come? What of the situation in Greece. What of lingering economic instability?
12. I can only tell you this. Our ASEAN Community makes us stronger and more economically secure. More open to trade and outside investment. Less vulnerable to global financial volatility. The figures back that up: Investment in our region reached US$136.2 billion last year. That represents a 15.7% year-on-year growth. Last year’s trade amounted to US$2.53 trillion – and we are anticipating an even stronger growth rate of 4.9% this year. The ASEAN Economic Community blueprint has helped encourage the free flow of goods between our member nations, and simplified trade. We applaud the elimination of tariffs by Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam.
13. We are developing a community of opportunity – one where increased trade and personal growth go hand-in-hand. And all of this before the Community is even fully established.
14. By 2050, ASEAN can become the world’s fourth largest economy. This is not an idle fantasy. It is based on an extrapolation of current figures. This is the future that we can start to fashion for our children, here and now. So I say – yes. We can be positive. We should be positive.
15. What about the threat of terrorism? Can we be positive in predicting a hopeful future? Even when we hear about ISIS murdering
holidaymakers on a Tunisian beach? Can we have hope for the future in a world blighted by the Taliban and Al-Qaeda?
16. I believe we can.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
17. Our ASEAN history is built upon the twin pillars of dialogue and diplomacy. Out of the disparate world-views of our founding nations, came the spark of unity. Back then, Adam Malik, the Indonesian Minister for Foreign Affairs anticipated “a region which can stand on its own feet, strong enough to defend itself against any negative influence from outside the region.” We have built a unified, economically viable community, with the power to realise that dream and to defend ourselves. That is why we have reaffirmed the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation as the key code of conduct governing peaceful relations.
18. Our East Asia Summit can be another key mechanism in encouraging cooperation between our nations and our partners. One that reflects our members’ interests and complements the work we do in ASEAN. This is a resource that can focus on issues of functional cooperation and on our strategic and security issues. Threatening none, welcoming all, the EAS brings major powers to a common table. It is the prefect instrument for diplomacy in troubled times.
19. So let me say again: we have every reason to be optimistic:
• Our trade lines are open. Our collaborative spirit is strong.
• We are still on course to launch our Community by end of this year.
• And the unity between our nations has never been stronger.
20. What we achieve in the next few months will set our course for decades to come.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
21. I would like to once again express my gratitude to The Honourable Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Tun Razak, Prime Minister of Malaysia as the Chairman of ASEAN; and Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor for gracing the opening ceremony of the 48th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. Dato’ Seri and Datin Seri, we are honoured by your presence here today.
22. So let me take this opportunity to say thank you. Thank you for the work you have already done. And because we still have action lines to complete; and new objectives to set, let me also say thank you for your ongoing commitment.
23. I know the work is hard. But in the year that we have created a truly people-centred ASEAN, let us remember…We have at least 630 million good reasons for doing it!