Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
At the outset, may I express my deepest a ppreciation to the founders of the Boao Forum for Asia and the Government of the People’s Republic of China for organizing this important meeting and inviting me to address this August forum.
In exchanging the experiences related to this year’s conference theme: “Asia Searching for Win-win: An Asia Open to the Outside World”, I am honored to share with all of you today my thoughts on the Challenges in East Asia in the 21st Century and the importance of integration in the region.
The 21st century has brought and will bring about a profound metamorphosis in the political, economic and social fabric and landscape of Southeast Asia and East Asia a whole. These changes present to us both opportunities and challenges that we have to address and overcome. Our region and beyond are also required to implement wide-ranging, in-depth and bold reforms, with strong political will.
In this context, our main objective is to ensure peace, security, stability, sustainable development, shared prosperity and co-existence in a harmonized regional community in the spirit of sharing and solidarity, while marching toward integration and mutually beneficial cooperation. This vision becomes the heart and soul of the “Win-win” Strategy for ASEAN and East Asia in this 21st Century, which, in my opinion, encompasses the following three main aspects:
- Transformation from a region of internal conflicts, mistrust and instability into an integrated zone of peace, security, stability and cooperation.
- Transformation from a region of imbalanced development into a center of comprehensive and harmonized development.
- Transition from a region, mainly stricken by poverty, to become a dynamic epicenter of prosperity in the world.
I am proud to note that with these virtuous aspirations we have started in earnest many useful enterprises that will shape our future and inspire our hope for the better. The evidences show that considerable achievements have been accomplished in these endeavors. Specifically, we have witnessed that the vision of an integrated ASEAN has become a reality before the dawn of the new century, in the form of ASEAN-10. In an effort to address the challenges of globalization, the Leaders of ASEAN have adopted long-term visions and promoted the implementation of action plans and specific projects to ensure that ASEAN remains attractive to foreign direct investment and international trade, especially to deepen intra-regional trade and investment. We all want the ASEAN countries, both new and original members, the more developed and less developed ones, to move forward on the path of sustainable economic growth. Our ultimate objective is to bridge development gaps amongst ASEAN countries, as quickly as possible, through the implementation of specific measures, especially the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) and the Roadmap for the Integration of ASEAN (RIA). At our last year Summit in Bali of Indonesia, we agreed to set out the long term vision of ASEAN Community through the declaration of the Bali Concord II, which is based on the three pillars of political and security cooperation, economic cooperation, and socio-cultural cooperation, that are closely intertwined and mutually reinforcing for the purpose of creating the ASEAN Community by the year 2020. In particular, the establishment of an ASEAN Economic Community (AEC)will make ASEAN a single market and production base with free flow of goods, services, investment, skilled labor and freer flow of capital. Thereby it would enhance ASEAN competitiveness and narrow the development gap amongst ASEAN members. At our summit later this year in Laos PDR, we plan to adopt the Vientiane Action Plan (VAP)designed to reach these long-term objectives.
Indeed, with the aim to accelerate growth and development we have established sub-regional arrangements complimentary to the regional ones, including the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA), Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) with participation of China’s Yunnan province, a triangle development area between Cambodia, Lao PDR and Vietnam, the Emerald triangle development among Cambodia, Laos and Thailand and the Economic Cooperation Strategy (ECS) between Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Thailand (CLMT). I believe that all these initiatives will provide us with opportunities to increase trade and investment, enhance our competitiveness, and create more employments, as well as increased income and improved the standards of living in the sub-regions, especially for the lesser developed members of ASEAN.
In a broader context, the integration of East Asia is on the right track since the ten ASEAN members and other three countries, the so-called ASEAN+3 agreed to expand and strengthen their cooperation.
The ASEAN Plus Three framework is vitally important in providing region-wide, geo-political and strategic umbrella for East Asia to prosper. Cambodia welcomes India, China and Japan’s accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia. The Code of Conduct in the South China Sea was adopted during the ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh in 2002. This strategic partnership and other comprehensive, strategic economic partnerships between ASEAN and the Plus Three are critical to ensuring peace, stability and prosperity in the region. Managing these relationships of friendship and cooperation present both challenges and tremendous opportunities for ASEAN and East Asia as a whole. In this regard, we have agreed and been convinced that the building block approach is the best way forward for the evolution of ASEAN+3 process, which will be strengthened and transformed, in the long run, into an East Asian Community, by striking a right balance between the needs and benefits of us all, both in the short and the long run. China has become a political, diplomatic and economic powerhouse in East Asia. ASEAN has much to benefit from a more developed China, which absorbs more and more imports of goods and services from all of us. It is my conviction that in 2010, the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area of nearly 2 billion people will take shape and determine the dimension of our and the world’s engagement with China.
Japan also represents a strategic anchor for the region and positioned herself at the core of the new configuration of political and economic landscapes of East Asia. The heart of this cooperation is ” the Koizumi’s Initiative for ASEAN-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership”, projected to be realized by 2012, which will promote not only the liberalization of investment and trade in goods and services, but also encourages advanced cooperation in a wide range of fields from tourism to human resources development and small and medium-sized enterprises.
ASEAN is also discussing with the Republic of Korea on trade liberalization, investment, and economic cooperation. At the Bali Summit, ASEAN welcomed the proposal of the Republic of Korea (ROK) to study the possibility of an ASEAN-ROK Free Trade Area.
India will become another economic powerhouse in the region and a promising growth center. The establishment of an ASEAN-India Free Trade Area by 2011 would facilitate the effective linkages of ASEAN to the free trade area of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)
Some people have expressed concerns over the future of ASEAN amid the emergence of the giant neighboring countries in the region. In my opinion, the greatest challenge for ASEAN is not the economic might of China, India or the others. The stability and the economic ascendancy of great neighbors like China or India would be crucial for promoting economic growth in the entire region. On the contrary, the decline, social disruption or poverty in China or India would pose only potential threats and dangers to their neighboring, smaller countries in the region. Thus, for me, the core issues lies in how ASEAN itself will take improvement measures and make further efforts to increase its own competitiveness. In this regard, I think that ASEAN is moving on the right track by choosing greater openness and closer cooperation with all its major and key partners.
Allow me to emphasize that we will not able to move smoothly forward, if we are still obsessed with mistrust, the legacies of past history and the Cold War, territorial disputes, races and religion, as well as the divergent views on various international and regional issues, the cooperation in combating terrorism and the economic isolation or economic embargo imposed on a country with different political or governance system so on and so forth, which can be used as an impediment to realizing our objectives of regional integration. Cambodia is proud of being able to specifically and appropriately contribute to regional efforts toward firm security, peace, stability and development, providing mutual benefits in the spirit of friendship, solidarity and cooperation. The restoration of peace, the policy of national reconciliation, as well as Cambodia’s strict adherence to the principles of democracy and market economy, respect for and protection of human rights, peace and genuine national reconciliation have been invaluable contributions to ASEAN and East Asian peace, security, stability and progress. Our agenda is to integrate our national economy into the regional and world trading system as fast as possible so that Cambodia can appropriately benefit from globalization. My ambition is to have Cambodia regain its destiny, playing an effective role on an equal footing in the regional and world affairs. We are aware that “if one wants to learn swimming, there are no other choice than jumping into the water and do it…” Nevertheless, we in Cambodia recognize that much remains to be done in order to fulfill our far-reaching objective and ambition. The building of a nation and the concomitant reform measures cannot be completed in isolation in a day, nor just a single, even a giant step. Development is attained through a steadfast, continuous process. Indeed, reforms are not an objective of journey by itself, but it presents the process of long journey. In this journey, we need a sincere partnership and close cooperation with all our partners, — based on the spirit of sharing and mutual trust which is the key principle of our “Win-win” Strategy.
Once again, I thank for the opportunity to share my thoughts with all of you at this important forum. I wish the conference success as expected, and wish the organizers and all the participants good health and success in their future endeavors.