Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am so pleased to see you again!
May I first express my sincere thanks to the Government of the Union of Myanmar for the warm hospitality extended to me and to the delegation of the Royal Government of Cambodia. I also congratulate the Government of Myanmar for the excellent arrangements for this Summit Meeting.
This Summit is of great significance to our respective countries as well as the entire region, as it represents an opportunity for us all to dialogue and exchange views on a shared Economic Cooperation Strategy (ECS). As a result of this Summit, we will take further steps to identify and develop options and opportunities to implement our shared vision of national as well as regional socio-economic development for the benefits of our people within both the framework of the GMS and the entire Southeast Asian region.
From its inception, Cambodia has supported the shared vision of development among the nations of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand (CLMT). Personally, I appreciated the proposal made by H.E. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra at the sidelines of the ASEAN Special Summit on SARS in April 2003. Therefore I am very glad that our respective senior officials and Foreign Ministers have worked hard so that today we hold this Summit to kick off the CLMT ECS in much more concrete terms for the long term benefits to our people.
While the CLMT nations are at varying stages of economic development, we share many common aspirations and approaches in promoting mutually beneficial, sustainable development. Indeed, our cooperation is based on universal values and consistent with the principles of international law, the aspirations of the ASEAN and the shared dreams of our nations of enduring peace and stability, good neighborliness, mutually beneficial development and lives of progress, prosperity, welfare and harmony.
In implementing our shared vision, we have adopted the approach of “four nations, one economy,” shaped by our commonalities and sustained, complementary efforts to strengthen the linkages among our respective Governments, entrepreneurs, and peoples. We all believe that the key to enhanced peace, security and shared prosperity among our nations is mutual cooperation and coordination for mutual understanding, strengthened by continuing dialogue, investments and technical and scientific cooperation and exchange.
I commend highly the outcome of the meeting of the CLMT Foreign Ministers on the ECS in Bangkok on 1 August 2003. That meeting enabled our Foreign Ministers to discuss the specifics of our shared vision of regional growth and prosperity. Our Ministers also worked to specify the strategic areas of economic cooperation among our four nations to increase trade and investment, enhance competitiveness and generate more employment and improved income and quality of life in the sub-region. Moreover, under the mandate of our Foreign Ministers, two meetings of the CLMT ECS Working Group were organized, successfully drawing up a comprehensive Action Plan with concrete cooperation and investment projects.
The Royal Government of Cambodia welcomes and is quite pleased with the ECS Action Plan that has resulted from the hard work of our respective Foreign Ministers and Senior Officials, with a set of specific, concrete projects in the five key areas of cooperation, namely: (1) Trade and Investment Facilitation, (2) Agricultural and Industrial Cooperation, (3) Transport Linkages, (4) Tourism Cooperation, and (5) Human Resource Development.
Indeed, I am very happy that our discussions have resulted in the identification of concrete and specific projects and initiatives. This will help ensure that we are better able to take further steps forward toward actual implementation to meet the aspirations of our peoples.
In this context, Cambodia fully supports the classification of the proposed investment programs, projects and cooperation arrangements into three phases: immediate-to-short term (2003 –2005), medium term (2006-2008), and long term (2009-2012). It is also heartening that we have set up a biennial review mechanism to ensure that we shall regularly appraise our progress and jointly act to further stimulate the process of ECS implementation.
I realize that in order to implement all of the initiatives and projects that we have identified in the ECS Plan of Action we will need to resolve the fundamental challenge of financing, which I believe can be met with resolve and creative mechanisms.
First, I believe that we should maximize the opportunities for private sector participation in all the initiatives. Most of the initiatives can be designed so that it will be in the best interest of our private sectors to participate and invest in these projects, and thereby minimizing the need for extraordinary public financing.
Second, we should enable the active involvement of various levels of our respective governments in the initiatives. I cite for example the various sister city agreements, all of which can be undertaken among the cooperating local governments and based on local financing;
Third, we should work together to generate support under multilateral frameworks, particularly international financing. For example, we should ensure complementarity of our initiatives with the priorities of the Asian Development Bank as it finances various cross-border infrastructure across the GMS. Certainly the World Bank, other financial institutions and donors can be encouraged to intensify their investments in our region by providing concessional loans and supporting regional technical capacity building initiatives through grants.
Since the economic cooperation strategy was initiated by the Thai Prime Minister and Thailand is more advanced among the four countries in terms of economic development, technical expertise and financial resources, I think that it is appropriate that Thailand plays a role of prime mover or locomotive of our economic cooperation strategy. In this sense, Thailand should play a leading role in coordinating the implementation of the ECS Plan of Action and the projects. This will allow us to achieve as soon as possible the concept of four countries-one economy. Indeed, each country is obliged to set up a sound and efficient national coordinating mechanism in order to speed up our cooperation. I hope that the Prime Ministers of Laos and Myanmar share the same view.
Speaking of benefits from our collaboration, allow me to cite, just as a single example, the benefits that we can expect from one of the projects that we have identified for joint implementation – the organization of joint trade and investment fairs and exhibitions.
Our four nations will organize and implement a regular and continuing series of such trade and investment fairs and exhibitions. Our nations will take turns in organizing these events, which will showcase and demonstrate to the region and to the rest of the world the full range of commodities and services that are available from our respective countries and the region as a whole. Through such events we will be able to broaden our markets while lowering our per-country market development costs. In the process we will gain timely intelligence about market trends and improved access to information on product quality and production technology. In this sense, the holding of joint trade and investment fairs is consistent with our shared strategies for regional and international integration.
In terms of financing, I am convinced that the joint trade and investment fairs can be self-financing, and the private-sector will be the first to reap the gains from such initiative. Thus, the events can be organized by the private sector, especially our respective national Chambers of Commerce, with minimal support from the cooperating governments.
Let me reiterate my conviction that our Summit is strategic and timely. We have taken a major step forward in enhancing our cooperation. The next priority is to push our activities forward toward actual implementation to achieve performance and practical results as soon as feasible. Let us not wait for the completion and perfection of the entire package. Small victories, gained early, will pave our common road to overall good results over the long haul.
To monitor progress and help accelerate implementation, our Senior Officials and Ministers should meet as often as needed, and at least once a year. The Leaders should meet once every two years to review the progress of this cooperation. In this context, I support the idea of organizing the next summit meeting in Thailand and the meeting afterwards by an alphabetical order.
May I conclude by emphasizing my conviction that our successful implementation of the Economic Cooperation Strategy among our nations – Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand, will greatly contribute to the transformation, in the first half of the 21st century, our shared areas into zones of sustained economic growth, progress, prosperity and harmony for all our peoples!