Your Royal Highnesses,
Ladies and Gentlemen:
On behalf of the Government and people of the Kingdom of Cambodia, I extend our very warmest welcome to Cambodia to all of you – the distinguished Foreign Ministers of the ASEAN member countries, Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste, the ASEAN Secretary-General, our invited guests and their delegations. I am extremely pleased to see so many friends and familiar faces gathered in Cambodia!
We meet again here in Phnom Penh, where the Royal Government of Cambodia has the privilege of hosting, for the first time, the 36th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting, the ASEAN plus Three Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, the 10th ASEAN Regional Forum and the Post-Ministerial Conferences. The ASEAN-related meetings will be followed by the 3rd Ministerial Meeting on Mekong-Ganga Cooperation.
I believe that all these meetings provide crucial opportunities for interaction that enable intensive dialogue and better understanding among all the ASEAN Members, our Dialogue Partners, and our respective key officials. Consequently, such dialogue has strengthened our ties and intensified our unified vision of shared progress, prosperity and development across our entire region.
Indeed, our ASEAN has come a long way since its founding in August 1967, when Southeast Asia was deeply fractured. At that time, South-East Asia was caught in the middle of the Cold War, which divided the region into antagonistic blocs representing two different ideologies.
However, over the years ASEAN has succeeded in contributing significantly to the reduction of rivalry and confrontation in the region, helping transform our region into an epicenter of genuine peace and cooperation in the favorable context of international politics, especially the end of the Cold War. ASEAN’s enlargement and the realization of ASEAN-10 has deepened the region’s atmosphere of peace and security and strengthened the Southeast Asia’s regional identity. Furthermore, the long-standing mechanisms of ASEAN, ASEAN+3, the ASEAN Post-Ministerial Conference and the ASEAN Regional Forum have become strong pillars of the political, security, economic, trade, investment and financial architecture of the region.
Cambodia is very proud of being able to specifically and appropriately contribute to regional efforts toward firm security and peace since the first days of its membership. Cambodia’s strict adherence to the principles of democracy, respect for and protection of human rights, ensuring peace and genuine national reconciliation, the elimination of the Khmer Rouge political and military structure have been significant and meaningful gifts for ASEAN solidarity.
Indeed, in the past year we have made a further step in the building of regional confidence. At the recent 8th ASEAN Summit, the ASEAN Foreign Ministers signed with the Special Envoy of the Peoples’ Republic of China the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, thereby significantly improving the climate of security and stability in East Asia.
On the economic front, there have been many developments. Some ASEAN members have established bilateral Swap arrangements with China, Japan and Korea. ASEAN also entered into the arrangements to develop a “comprehensive” economic relationship leading to an ASEAN-China free trade area with China and to forge a “comprehensive economic partnership” with Japan and Korea. These arrangements will create a new configuration of economic cooperation in East Asia.
ASEAN’s links are extending even farther. Our historic first summit with India reflects the ASEAN’s appreciation of India’s strategic importance and her economic, scientific and technological achievements. Similarly, ASEAN’s ongoing discussions with Australia, New Zealand, the European Union and the United States each hold the promise of greater engagement for mutual progress toward shared goals. In this regard, ASEAN welcomes President Bush’s Enterprise for ASEAN Initiative which is aimed at building a network of FTAs between the US and individual ASEAN members.
Cambodia welcomes the outcome of the recent G8 Summit held in France on 1-3 June 2003, especially the measures to strengthen world-wide growth, enhance sustainable development, improve security and address regional issues. In this regard, we reaffirmed our commitment to jointly combat terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
The ASEAN has taken serious strides to deepen economic integration, possibly leading to the formation of an ASEAN Economic Community by the year 2020. Toward such a goal we envision the “fast-tracking” of trade liberalization, intensified economic cooperation and the mobilization of resources to implement the Initiative for ASEAN Integration. Our actions therefore should be geared towards establishing the foundations for an integrated market – liberalization of trade in services, the free flow of investments, the harmonization of product standards, seamless transport and telecommunications networks and other trade facilitation measures.
More importantly, I am convinced that regional integration must start with the strengthening of bilateral relations facilitated by both hardware such as physical infrastructure, and soft infrastructure including laws and regulations, the facilitation of economic activities, trade, investment and exchange. In this sense, at the initiative of H.E. Dr. Thaksin Shinawatra, Prime Minister of Thailand, we organized a Cambodian-Thai Joint Cabinet Retreat to dialogue on our vision of shared growth and prosperity, founded on the building a Cambodia-Thailand Economic Corridor. Therefore we have authored a new chapter in our history of good neighborliness, cooperation and mutual benefit for our two countries and peoples.
Over its history, ASEAN has steadily come to serve as a firm, deliberate interlocutor in regional and international affairs. As we meet here in Phnom Penh, let us take comfort in the relative peace and stability of Southeast Asia and the continuing resilience of our economies. ASEAN has established a proud record of peace among its members, of collaboration for common interest and the steadfast nurture of a regional sense of community.
I sincerely urge the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting and the ASEAN Regional Forum to work seriously and intensively to forge effective responses to the potential threats to our region. I also trust that the Post-Ministerial Conferences with the ASEAN’s Dialogue Partners will discuss specific policies and programs to deal with these concerns.
This week our ASEAN deliberates within the framework of the 36th ASEAN Ministers’ Meeting, the ASEAN Regional Forum and the Post-Ministerial Meetings. Before us we have a full agenda arising from our common desire to effectively deal with the problems, threats and challenges that confront our respective nations and region. We also have unfinished business arising from the agreements we forged at the 8th ASEAN Summit. In tackling this enormous agenda, our Foreign Ministers bear a special responsibility. In this context, I propose six key tasks requiring the leadership of our ASEAN Foreign Ministers, as follows:
First, in the forging of regional economic integration: While economic integration is primarily assigned to our ASEAN Economic Ministers, we have all learned through experience that the nurture of full international partnership requires not only economic exchange but political leadership as well. Thus, our Foreign Ministers have to play a political key role in promoting ASEAN cooperation and integration, focusing on the profound and far reaching political as well as socio-economic implications and effects of economic integration and on the reality of social aspect, especially concerning the border related issues such as drug, human trafficking of women and children and the illegal immigration;
Second, in the nurture of equitable development in the ASEAN: Consistent with our Initiative for ASEAN Integration, we must continually strengthen our coordination in all strategies and programs aimed at the development of the newer members of the ASEAN. Therefore, we should strive toward greater complementarity. Moreover, we should enhance consistency in our approaches and activities not only under the IAI but also the ASEAN-Mekong Basin Development Cooperation, the Greater Mekong Sub-region Program and the Mekong River Commission that will contribute to narrowing the internal gaps within ASEAN. In fact, in a few days our concerned Ministers meet again in Phnom Penh to focus on Mekong – Ganga Cooperation. In all those frameworks, the continuing dialogue among the ASEAN Foreign Ministers is key to effective coordination and policy consistency in implementing these programs.
Third, in the full engagement in East Asian cooperation and the ASEAN+3 process: Here in Phnom Penh, the ASEAN Foreign Ministers meet their counterparts from China, ROK, and Japan for the fourth time. They will consider the many findings and recommendations presented by the East Asia Study Group on how East Asian cooperation may be strengthened, and how a sustaining East Asian identity and consciousness may be established. Across ASEAN, many bodies, institutions and organizations will eventually implement the program for East Asian cooperation. Key among these will be the Foreign Ministers who must have a special political and leading role.
Fourth, in the intensive promotion of tourism: Cambodia and the rest of ASEAN has placed great store on the long-term economic benefit arising from tourism. The ASEAN Leaders signed the ASEAN Tourism Agreement here in Phnom Penh recently, and the ASEAN Foreign Ministers with their network across the globe can provide valuable contributions in the coordinated implementation and enforcement of this very important Agreement. Moreover, with ASEAN Health Ministers and concerned institutions, the ASEAN Foreign Ministers have played an important role in coordinating our joint efforts to overcome the impact of SARS and promote Southeast Asia as a SARS-free region.
Fifth, in the fostering of peace and stability in the South China Sea: Undoubtedly, the Foreign Ministers have the crucial responsibility for vigilance, resolve and close communication necessary to ensure the effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.
Finally, in intensifying vigilance against international terrorism: concern for world security, especially with regard to international terrorist acts since 11 September 2001 and other recent events, require us to exert our best efforts to strengthen our solidarity and take firm measures to maintain public security and political and economic stability that will protect the ASEAN as a productive investment destination and the epicenter of peace and prosperity. We have undertaken many activities toward strengthening cooperation against terrorism, including the crack-downs on and elimination of terrorist organizations, implementation of regional capacity-building programs in the investigation of terrorist acts and intensified international cooperation against terrorism. The ASEAN Foreign Ministers have a key role in implementing those measures effectively.
Indeed, the ASEAN has been very important to Cambodia, and therefore Cambodia remains a steadfast member of the ASEAN. Over this past year, we have provided constructive contributions, hosted and helped prepare numerous ASEAN meetings and events and contributed significantly to the ASEAN’s cooperation in all aspects, including political, economic, trade, investment, financial, social, cultural and environmental concerns.
Thus, in serving as Chair of the ASEAN Standing Committee this year, Cambodia is exerting its utmost to help ensure that the work of the ASEAN is important as well as personally fulfilling. We look forward to helping steer the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting, the ASEAN+3 Foreign Ministers’ meeting, the ASEAN Regional Forum, the Post-Ministerial Conferences, and the Mekong-Ganga Cooperation meeting toward the objectives we all share – peace, security, stability, prosperity, regional economic integration, and the elimination of the threats and scourges that afflict our peoples – their lives and well-being.
I am confident that our ASEAN Foreign Ministers will exert their best skills and leadership toward all these shared goals. I wish all Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen a success in their endeavors and a pleasant visit to Cambodia and good, lasting memories of Angkor, our ancient land.