Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to join the ASEAN Leaders in welcoming the participation of the Leaders of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Japan and the Republic of Korea at this summit. Since the last Phnom Penh Summit, ASEAN+3 countries have made a substantial progress in intensifying our multi-faceted cooperation.
Cambodia highly appreciate the concrete actions taken by the +3 countries in implementing various initiatives aimed at accelerating ASEAN integration, such as: the Initiative for the Development in East Asia (IDEA) initiated by the Prime Minister of Japan, the East Asia Vision Group (EAVG) and East Asia Study Group (EASG) proposed by South Korea, and (c) Framework Agreement on ASEAN – China Comprehensive Economic Cooperation.
Taking this opportunity, I would like to thank the Republic of Korea for the pledge of US$830,000.00 for the feasibility study of Singapore-Kunming rail link, which passes through the new ASEAN member countries namely Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. Specifically for Cambodia, thanks to Malaysia’s commitment to building the missing link from Poipet to Sisophon. In order to complete the whole project, I would like to propose to the +3 countries to help build the missing link from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Min City.
Cambodia warmly welcome prompt actions taken by our +3 partners in implementing the short-term recommendations proposed by the EASG namely, the implementation of the East Asia Forum (EAF) by Korea, the building of East Asia Think-Tanks by China, and the ASEAN+3 Study Group for the Facilitation and Promotion of the Exchange of People and Human Resources Development by Japan. Speedy implementation of these initiatives is important in order to promote and deepen cooperation in East Asia.
Despite the significant progress and development were made in many fields of our cooperation, ASEAN+3 still faces many challenges, which required concerted efforts to deal with. Particularly, the existing gap of development level in East Asia is the key main challenge.
In this regard, the successful conclusion of the first ministerial meeting of IDEA was highly complementary to ASEAN+3 process to deepen the cooperation and integration of East Asia. IDEA has its importance and strength as synergy to deepen East Asia cooperation and integration. Moreover, Japan’s emphasis on the close links between ODA, FDI and trade facilitation for developing countries shows Japan’s strong support and commitments to ASEAN’s continuous efforts to accelerate ASEAN integration, thereby helping reduce gaps between Northeast and Southeast Asian development.
Cambodia was so pleased with the result of the Fukuoka Symposium on the IDEA held on 30 August 2003 in Japan. The symposium took place as a follow-up activity to look for ways and means to implement recommendations of the IDEA-1 Ministerial Meeting. By now, I believe, government officials, academics as well as private sector have taken the IDEA into their heart.
Thus, to keep the momentum and translate the IDEA into implementation, Cambodia welcomes Japan’s offer to host the second IDEA Ministerial Meeting, so that we can look into concrete development issues and strategic areas of cooperation such as infrastructure, HRD, ICT, and other forms of regional economic integration.
Besides HRD cooperation, the success of this our region still much depends on mutual-understanding among people in East Asia. So far our people don’t have a strong sense of East Asian identity, which is of significant for having people realize the common fate of the region and to change the way of thinking on future regional community.
The final report of the EASG presented to us in Phnom Penh last November, provides clear direction for the ASEAN+3 cooperation through the 17 short term measures and 9 medium-to long term measures. We agreed on the vision of the ASEAN+3’s gradual evolution into East Asian Summit and eventually East Asian free trade area as our long term objectives.
Since we have also agreed that building block approach is the best way forward for the evolution of ASEAN+3, Cambodia is of the view that ASEAN and the +3 countries have to further accelerate sub-regional FTAs as so far we have witnessed East Asian development in good shape. To point out, ASEAN-China FTA negotiation is well in progress, and ASEAN-Japan CEP is about to start its consultations /negotiations by next year. I am of the view that sub-regional FTAs would likely work as building block and could help to ease an establishment of EAFTA more than a network of bilateral FTAs which would be possibly difficult to hammer out the differences in terms of FTA coverage, trade and investment regimes and especially the rule of origin, if we are seeking an EAFTA is our regional ultimate goal.
Specifically, Cambodia views that by promoting Sub-regional FTAs between ASEAN and the Plus Three countries, no one members will be left behind and ASEAN could also maintain its appropriate role as a driving force in the ASEAN+3 process.
Once again, I highly appreciate the initiatives and generous support provided by our ASEAN+3 Partners that have contributed to the development of our region.