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ASEAN calls to narrow region's growth gap

Update: July, 21/2008 - 00:00

ASEAN calls to narrow region’s growth gap

(22-07-2008)

HA NOI — The foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) passed a communique reaffirming the importance of narrowing the development gap in the region, at the group’s ministerial meeting in Singapore yesterday.

At the "One ASEAN at the Heart of Dynamic Asia" meeting, the foreign ministers agreed to further intensify integration efforts in all three pillars of the ASEAN community to establish a people-oriented, caring and sharing region by 2015.

"We affirmed our resolve to pursue more region-wide co-operation programmes and activities geared towards accelerating the ASEAN community-building process," the communique said.

The ministers agreed to intensify co-operation to Narrow the Development Gap (NDG) to support ASEAN’s integration efforts, which is considered of paramount importance to community-building in the group.

This is expected to help ensure equitable economic development of the region and facilitate attainment of the Millennium Development Goals, to contribute to the well-being of the people of ASEAN.

They emphasised the key role of the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) in NDG efforts and committed to delivering by December this year a final draft of the IAI World Plan 2009-2015.

Addressing the meeting, Viet Nam’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem said the group needed to continue upholding its lead and central role in regional co-operation processes that it initiates, including the ASEAN+3, the East Asia Summit, and the ASEAN Regional Forum, as well as accelerating the global integration process of the Asia-Pacific region.

The Vietnamese leader said ASEAN was entering a new, important stage of development, giving top priority to putting the ASEAN Charter into action and to ensure the successful construction of a three pillar-based ASEAN Community by 2015.

For accomplishing those tasks in line with the road map, the group would need to enhance its unity and raise the effectiveness of its co-operation to foster regional integration, Khiem said.

He said that narrowing development disparity was a condition for the group to achieve regional integration and build the ASEAN community and it would continue to be given a high priority in the group’s inner co-operation and its co-operation with outside partners.

Deputy PM Khiem said ASEAN should concentrate on building the second phase of an IAI working plan on narrowing the development gap to fit the group’s new priorities and requirements in addition to increasing implementation effectiveness and integrating the issue into resource mobilisation strategy.

The meeting highlighted ASEAN’s role in the ASEAN-led co-ordination mechanism in response to Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar.

The leaders also affirmed ASEAN would actively enhance regional and international co-operation to find out long-lasting and sustainable solutions on food security, energy and finance.

Reviewing the Plan of Action on the Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone adopted at the last ASEAN Ministerial Meeting, the ministers affirmed the need to persevere in strengthening co-operation to implement the Treaty.

The meeting reiterated the importance of maintaining ASEAN’s central role in regional processes.

The ministers said they were pleased with co-operation between ASEAN and its dialogue partners and praised support of regional and non-regional dialogue countries in the effort to build an ASEAN community.

During a working dinner on Sunday, ASEAN ministers discussed regional development.

They were briefed by Cambodian and Thai representatives on the situation relating to Preah Vihear temple. They agreed to issue a chair statement calling for both sides to exercise "maximum restraint", solve the issue through peaceful measures in line with the international law and in the spirit of ASEAN solidarity and neighbourliness.

The ministers also affirmed that ASEAN would be willing to help to solve the issue if required by Cambodia and Thailand.

On the ASEAN Charter, the group’s first legally binding document designed to help it become a single trading bloc, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the grouping decided to press on with its implementation without waiting for all ten members to ratify.

Seven ASEAN countries have thus far ratified the Charter except Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines. The charter is expected to be ratified by ASEAN’s end-of-year summit in Bangkok.

At the opening ceremony, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the establishment of an ASEAN Studies Centre within a think tank – the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies – in Singapore.

"The Centre will work closely with the ASEAN Secretariat to undertake policy research on ASEAN. It will look at measures to help the organisation grow new capabilities, strengthen its institutions, and enhance co-operation among its members," Lee said. — VNS

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