Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today, it is my great honor and pleasure to join you all in the closing of international conference on Globalization and Regional Integration to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), the 50thanniversary of European Union and also the 1st anniversary of the establishment of the International Relations Institute of Cambodia.
Taking this great occasion, I would like to express my high appreciation to the International Relations Institute of Cambodia for their initiatives and collaboration with the Senate of the Kingdom of Cambodia and the Conrad Adenauer Foundation, to organize this important and useful international conference. Indeed, this conference highlights the importance and efforts of the Royal Government of Cambodia for regional integration as well as its consideration on the significance of regional communities, in particular, at the present time, such as ASEAN and European Union. Furthermore, this conference also reflects the importance of ASEAN-Cambodia and EU-Cambodia relationships which are consistent with the Royal Government’s policy on regional and global integration as well as the integration between ASEAN and European Union.
On behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia and myself, I would like to thank distinguished international and national guests, ambassadors, both multilateral and bilateral development partners for your participation in this one day conference. Obviously, time, knowledge, moral support, extended assistance as well as the presence of Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen in this conference are of valuable contribution and proof to commemorate the anniversaries of ASEAN, European Union and the International Relations Institute of Cambodia. Also this is an action which reflects the recognition of the importance of regional integration and international relations. Moreover, our panelists and speakers at the conference have also provided future visions, shared their ideas aiming at promoting the integration process to actively moving forward in the sustainable manner which is consistent with the development pace of each country, region and the world.
In addition, this Globalization and Regional Integration Conference takes place in the right time when Cambodia is actively moving forward and has gradually achieved many foreign policies in terms of integrating itself into the region and the world with prideful results and strong expectations.
Indeed, we acknowledged that because of the impact of globalization and regionalization and also the evolution in telecommunication technology during the last decades, the world has been undergoing constant changes and revolving at pace beyond our expectation. And it also created enabling environment for us to prevent and resolve both strategic and geo-political issues at hand. Nonetheless, these rapid progress and revolution have also posed great challenges and uncertainties to our fragile world. Efforts to secure peace among and between our nations and to meet the basic needs of all the people is still a straggling challenge, along with the fast-growing world population, digital divide, fatal diseases such as HIV/AIDS and avian flu, regional war, terrorism, international crime, arm proliferation and the spread of nuclear weapons as well as wider development gaps between countries.
Furthermore, rapid progress in globalization leads to changes not only in the economy and technology, but also to the way of thinking and vision of the people with regards to the world as a whole. Globalization has created a new unit of measure for world order which requires reconsideration on the type of actions and strategies that call for the cooperation and promotion of regional integration for the mutual benefits.
We, as human being, always felt regrettable and concerned over the negative events that have occurred in other countries around the region and the word. However, I reckon that all threats can be embedded with opportunities; it is just a matter of time and place. For instance, the Asian Financial Crisis which occurred in 1997 has led East Asian countries to work together and provided a strong force for ASEAN and East Asia toward regional integration and institutional enhancement. In this sense, I used to press for the assessment on the potential of ASEAN and East Asia, initiated from these development processes, by having structural reform that would help the poor countries and to increase the international capital and foreign reserves. Besides, for the last ten years, Cambodia has gone through good and rapid changes, not only in political and security scenarios, but also in economic and social scenarios. Indeed, Cambodia’s integration into the region and international cooperation is the special and inevitable tie.
On behalf of a nation that had been respected and praised, Cambodia has put its utmost efforts to rehabilitate and maintain decent external policies by rapidly integrating itself into the regional and international arena and have been cooperated and played an equal role with an equal right as a partner in every regional and international relation. For instance, to accelerate the country’s development process toward achieving economic prosperity and social equity, the Royal Government has been paying close attentions on reforms in all sectors to reduce poverty, one of the core objective of the Rectangular Strategy,which clearly set the objectives of promoting economic growth, creating employments for all Cambodian peoples, promotingequity and social justice and strengthening the efficiency of public sector through deep and comprehensive reform programs. The Rectangular Strategy of the Royal Government also reflects the effort to maximize the benefit from regional and international integration and to uphold and protect the rights and dignities of Cambodian people in all scenarios including the political, economic, social and development scenarios.
During the last few decades, Cambodia has overcome many difficulties and challenges. We could go through this stage because of our scarifications and strong commitments. Cambodia has become a country full of peace, public order, cooperation and development. Certainly, the assurances of stability, security and the strengthening culture of peace that we achieved so far are hard works for us, but they are the necessary and prerequisite conditions for the development of the country and international cooperation. Indeed, for every effort made, we always understand that the key issue is the internal affairs, if we have internal conflicts and no unity, we believe that there is no foreign country that can address the internal conflicts of Cambodia. By realizing this context, we have made an instant decision without hesitation to overcome all challenges including political concession to get unity for Cambodia that is fully recognized by its neighbors, and other countries in the regional and international arena. Under this framework, I would like to emphasize that the evolutionary process for Cambodia by the late 90’s was the integration of forces and territory that was once managed by the Khmer Rough with the Royal Government. This is the fundamental and key factor before Cambodia integrating itself into the region and subsequently into the current of globalization.
Even though there are different rational for the establishment of an organization in a particular region, it is observed that each of those organization are basically on the same path, that is to say, to establish economic community though integrating all the countries in that region to strengthen its competency and competitiveness.
During the previous Open Academic Forum which was organized by the International Relations Institute of Cambodia, I have pointed out that peace and development are closely interrelated and peace is the main cause and is very important for socio-economic development. Here, I would like to add that development is the inevitable strength for foreign policies and international relations as well as regional economic integration.
By realizing this important factor, the Royal Government of Cambodia has clearly set in the Rectangular Strategy that followed from the Triangle Strategy of the Royal Government during the Second Term of the National Assembly to continue the integration of Cambodia into regional community and the world by giving high priority on the efforts to narrow the development gap within ASEAN through having actions being taken by member countries of ASEAN and partner countries to actively participate in the implementation of various programs of Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI), as laid out in the previous ASEAN summit. Meanwhile, the Royal Government will continue to actively participate in the implementation of the Great Mekong Sub-Regional Programs and the Initiative for Triangle Development Zone between Cambodia-Viet Nam-Laos and that between Cambodia-Laos-Thailand as well as Strategic Economic Cooperation between Cambodia-Laos-Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam.
We believe that the implementation of these initiatives will in turn provide us with a special opportunity to increase trade activities and investment, improve revenue competitiveness and promote the living standard of the people living in these sub-regions which are mostly the least developed regions among the developing ASEAN member countries.
The Royal Government will decisively continue its journey toward trade liberalization aims at ensuring free movement of goods and services across the country and between Cambodia and its crucial partner countries in the region and the world. By allowing Cambodian products to enter major markets in the region and in the world freely without barriers and obstacles, it will provide Cambodia with the opportunity to gain from huge economy of scale which is beneficial for its entire national economy in terms of increased investment, employment generation, increased revenue and growth which are important factors contribute to poverty reduction. In this sense, Cambodia’s participation in the ASEAN Free Trade Zone and the WTO are the strategic and historical steps for the development efforts of Cambodia.
For instance, Cambodia has made remarkable progress toward integrating itself into the international community such as being a member of ASEAN community, Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), and the WTO, Great Mekong Sub-Regional Cooperation(GMS), Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS), and the framework of Sub-regional Development Triangle Zone which would provide great opportunities for investment and trade reforms.
During the last decade, Cambodia’s macroeconomic situation has been stable and trustworthy. For instance, since 1994-2006 Cambodia achieved the average economic growth rate of 8.3% per annum. Moreover, since 1999, after the entire country received full peace Cambodia achieved the average economic growth rate of approximately 9.5% per annum. We clearly understand that our duty is to maintain such economic growth’s scenario in order to ensure sustainable economic jump which is important not only for affirming the objective of the Royal Government in poverty alleviation but also the crucial foundation for regional and world integration. At the same time, Cambodia must strengthen its human resource competency to compete among ASEAN as well as other regional integration activities with equal right and compatible strength.
Cambodia fully supports every effort which aimed at realizing the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by 2015, especially, the effort to allow for the flexibility and opportunity for those member countries which are prepared and ready to proceed toward realizing the AEC. However, in order to ensure such flexibility and to avoid having bigger gap among the members of ASEAN which pose a great challenge for the full economic integration between these member countries, ASEAN must give special priority for the implementation of “Initiative for ASEAN Integration” (IAI), which includes broadening the coverage of “ASEAN Integration System of Preferences” (AISP). Indeed, this mechanism will allow member countries which have developed the least to effectively participate in the AEC and to draw appropriate benefit from the ASEAN integration.
I would like to stress that Cambodia’s agenda does not end after being a member of ASEAN and having implemented various cooperative works such as those under the ASEAN+3 and ASEAN+1. Cambodia has a bigger ambition. Indeed, our agenda is to integrate our economy into the world trade system. For instance, Cambodia has achieved its membership with the WTO on September 2003 at Cancun, Mexico and is making progress on its enduring and appropriate reform journey to realize its objectives.
It should also be noticed that, along with the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the EU, cooperation between Cambodia and EU has reached its 10th year by now and these cooperation are enhancing the partnership between the two and provide the benefit for many development sectors such as the economic, political and social sectors which required the discussion and share of experiences between these two communities as well as the nations among them.
Today is a special occasion in which we can celebrate the birthdays of ASEAN, EU and the International Relations Institute of Cambodia at the same time. I have already mentioned a lot about Cambodia’s progress and ASEAN, but we should not overlook the successful experiences of EU regarding the integration. The initiative to establish this community existed since 1950 but was not formed until 1957 when gradually the membership of this organization has increased up to 27 countries by 2007. The expansion of its membership is an important opportunity for the EU during the beginning of the 21st century. It represents a historical achievement in promoting the integration of all the country in that region through a peaceful mean of expanding the safety zone and providing prosperity for new members. Moreover, the use of a common currency within EU also represents a driving force of the economy and finance and should be use as a great model.
Cambodia has implemented peaceful co-existence policies with other countries based on mutual benefit and always opened for every cooperation and participation with other countries and organizations to find prosperity and maximum benefit for Cambodian citizens and all the people around the world. For instance, Cambodia has transformed itself from a country that used to receive the United Nation’s peace keeping force into a country that has sent its troop to help the United Nation in its peace keeping activity.
Once again, I would like to thank the International Relations Institute of Cambodia, the Senate and the Conrad AdenauerFoundation in organizing this international conference with deep meaning and smoothness. At the same time, I would like to call for the support and participation from concerned national institutions, development partner countries and those organizations that provided aid for International Relations Institute of Cambodia.
Finally, I would like to whish you all with Five Gems of Buddhist Blessings.