Phnom Penh, January 20th, 2010
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen!
Today it is my pleasure and privilege to be here once again to join the 6th Asia Economic Forum on “Maximizing Asia’s Strategic Roles in the World: Opportunities, Challenges, and Future Prospects”, jointly hosted by the University of Cambodia and the International Foundation for Arts and Culture of Tokyo.
First of all, I would like to extend my warmest welcome to Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen government officials, economists, and speakers attending this important event. This forum is indeed a great opportunity for all of us to exchange dialogue and experiences on regional economy, finance and development while the global economic crisis is hampering Asia’s growth, financial soundness and trade. In addition to the pursuit of key solutions to deal with the crisis, this forum will also try to explore options to promote growth and political stability as well as targeted responses to deal with climate change, human development, and development gap. Succeeding in the pursuit does not only mean less impact from the crisis, but also quicker development for the region.
Although the present sign of global economic recovery is hardly visible, we strongly believe the East Asia will recover more quickly than other regions through domestic demand stimulation and export promotion. Adding to the lesson learned from the crisis, ASEAN can now deepen its integration process, especially in the fields of finance, trade, investment as well as cross-border transport, agriculture and tourism.
In this spirit, I totally support the prospect of integrating ASEAN and the linkage of physical infrastructure such as roads, bridges, railways, air and sea within Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar and the whole ASEAN will bring about enormous benefits to member countries, through the promotion of intra-trade, investment and tourism as well as narrowing of development gap amongst the members. Along with this, to maximize gain from the vast economic potential in the region, ASEAN must also focus on soft infrastructure, especially trade facilitation, customs procedures simplification and automation, investment and SMEs promotion and strengthening economic integration. Success in these tasks will allow us to minimize cost of production and promote domestic consumption which in return will boost the region’s competitiveness.
The effect of the global financial and economic crisis will extend amid some reports of recovery in 2010. In this sense, I think Asia’s increasing strategic role in the world must be fulfilled. Under this circumstance, Asia must grab the opportunity and uproot the region’s common challenges. The strengthening of Asia’s role must start with the reassessment of the crisis’s impact on economy and politics, social well-being, environment and other areas in Asia.
In this context, I believe the strengthening of ASEAN’s internal integration will be an urgent priority since all the member countries are key to political stability and socio-economic development that can influence the whole Asia. In this sense, the formation of the ASEAN Community by 2015 which includes ASEAN’s security - politics community, economic community and socio-cultural community must start with the ASEAN Constitution, the key catalyst for accelerating, deepening and harmonizing ASEAN integration.
Along with the achievements made so far and the vision to be achieved by ASEAN and the whole Asia, I have noticed that we have a number of works in front of us which require our joint efforts to continue strengthening the strategic roles of ASEAN for the future of Asia. Those works are as follows:
1. Promoting the maintenance of political stability, security, harmonization and regional peace
I would like to note that ASEAN has played a significant role for regional cooperation, security and politics, starting from the signing of the ASEAN charter. This issue has been supported by the United States recently through the participation of the US in the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC), which reflect the US’s commitment to maintain security and peace in the region.
Through many forums, which have been initiated by the ASEAN such as ASEAN+1 with other dialogue partners, ASEAN+3, East Asia Summit and ASEAN Regional Forum have played crucial roles in maintaining peace, political stability and security in the region.
In fact, the strategic role of ASEAN for this issue is truly essential. This role is the profession of ASEAN and Asia. Without peace, political stability and social order, there will be no development even the life of ASEAN and Asia could not be sustained. In this regard, the ASEAN member states must try to maintain political stability, internal security and good relations with each other. The achievements of these works will help to reduce the impact of the global economic and financial crisis in the region as well as strengthening the cooperation for socio-economic development.
Along with this, I believe that when we strengthen the principles of not interfering with internal affairs of the member states and when we demonstrate the ability of ASEAN in facilitating and solving the security and political issues, related to the bilateral relation of its member states, we will achieve the future of ASEAN with full fledge integration in ASEAN and the whole Asia because the leading role of ASEAN is the significant energy of Asia. Of course, by then we all will share a common faith from the glorious future of Asia due to the fast moving economic growth and the size of population, which is a big market. Moreover, the core role of ASEAN for the future of Asia is to continue implementing the strategy against terrorism, transnational crimes, pirates, fighting against nuclear weapon and all kinds of disastrous war.
2. Promoting the progress of Asia’s economy and trade
In order to promote this strategy, ASEAN should try to quickly reduce the impact of the global economic and financial downturn through boosting investment, increasing export of agricultural products and promoting cooperation in the financial sector, according to the spirit of multilateral Chiang Mai Initiatives, increasing the reserved budget, such as the reservation of USD 120 billion for accelerating the development of ASEAN economy. Furthermore, ASEAN should try to continue to make sure that the Free Trade Area between ASEAN-China, ASEAN-India, ASEAN-Japan and ASEAN-Korea are to promote trade between the ASEAN and dialogue partners. Along with this, ASEAN must make sure the DOHA ROUND resumes the negotiation process in order to enable the developing countries to develop according to their strategic goals. For this issue, ASEAN must also focus on the enhancement of roles of the private sector to be the engine of growth.
3. Accelerating the development of the East Asian Community
This strategic role is the bridge in developing an East Asian Community, which is the building of interest for the whole Asian people. In overall, ASEAN must try to push for the building of East Asian Community through ASEAN regional integration and East Asia Integration. The building of both communities should be done at the same time. The East Asian Community should be started by not delaying until the completion of building the three communities of ASEAN by 2015. On the other hand, the initiative to create another community, which is the establishment of Asia-Pacific Community, is not necessary as ASEAN has already had a lot of mechanisms. Through this, we should strengthen existing mechanisms rather than creating new ones with late implementation.
4. Preventing climate change
Climate change is still a threat for us all. We all have been aware about the close relationship between climate change and natural disaster. Through this, we must be brave to put out sharp measures to cope with this challenge. In this sense, ASEAN must be more responsible in promoting the implementation of the existing mechanisms in order to effectively and timely deal with the climate change. Strategically, ASEAN must raise its own profile to combat climate change in order to ensure happiness, particularly the lives of Asians.
5. Ensuring food security
As the world population is increasing, food security becomes a long-term and chronic issue which all countries must cope with urgently. The hike in food prices had casted adverse effect on poverty and made poor people vulnerable to food shortages and malnutrition. Food security remains a major concern for the whole Asia because most of the countries are still developing countries. Indeed, this also brings up new opportunity for those countries in our region that have great potential in the agriculture sector.
At the same time, we are fully aware that the future economic growth in Asia will escalate more demand for energy as well. Therefore, in response to the increase in demand for energy, we inevitably have to utilize bio-fuel which will play an alternative role in our development. However, through the recent increase in food prices and various impacts on our people, we noticed that bio-fuel development will not be beneficial because land use for food cultivation should not be utilized for bio-fuel crops. This requires us to reconsider the balance between growing food and bio-fuel crops. Therefore, ASEAN must play the role in ensuring enough food that is sanitary for the health of our people. In parallel, ASEAN must pay attention to cultivate agricultural food crops to secure food security as well as reduce the risk from overusing chemical fertilizer.
6. Disaster management
ASEAN must play a very potential strategic role in confronting natural disaster through the establishment of mechanism to manage and prepare for disasters such flood, drought, volcano eruption, typhoon and earthquake. Of course, some disasters are of huge magnitude that a country cannot cope with alone. In this sense, we must closely cooperate to strengthen our preparedness and build the capacity of each country to overcome these disasters. Information sharing such as through the early warning system and joint exercise should be extended to cover all countries in Asia.
7. Preventing communicable diseases
Strengthening the strategic role of ASEAN in protecting and preventing all kinds of communicable diseases in this millennium is vital in ensuring the wellbeing and future of Asian people. This is the common role of the world in which cooperation between countries in region to promote researches to produce medicines and vaccines for preventing any disease are the type of task to be jointly accelerated.
8. Promoting young leadership education for the future
Undoubtedly, long-term sustainability and the future of Asia lies on the leadership of next generations, especially those young leaders in Asian countries. In this sense, Asian must take a very crucial role in building successors through strengthening and expanding education and training programs and providing encouragement for wider participation of youth.
9. Promoting the prestige of ASEAN on the international stage
Another strategy that ASEAN must adopt is to raise its prestige on international stage. This task can be achieved by maintaining firm regional internal solidarity of ASEAN, ensuring and strengthening peace, political stability, security and social order.
Once again, on behalf of the Cambodian government, I would like to warmly welcome the presence of Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen who contribute both time and experience at the 6th Asia Economic Forum, 2010 which being held in the Kingdom of Cambodia at the moment. I hope that the results of this forum will provide important knowledge for the promotion of peace, political stability and social order as well as economic development in the region and the world.
I would like to wish Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen attending this forum with the four gems of Buddhist blessing; Longevity, Nobility, Health and Strength.
May I now announce the opening of the 6th Asia Economic Forum, 2010.