PM Phan Van Khai's statement at ASEAN Summit

Ha Noi, Nov. 5 (VNA) -- Following is the extract from Prime Minister Phan Van Khai's speech at the eighth ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh.

"The regional and world situation has seen far-reaching and complex developments. I share the views that it is necessary to make through assessment of the situation with a view to working out measures to seize opportunities and respond to emerging challenges. Our Summit last year was convened right in the wake of the September 11th event. This year, our meeting takes place at an even more complex and unpredictable conjuncture.

"1. While the conflict in the Middle-East remains extremely tense with no way out and South Asia still sees complex developments, terrorism not only remains unabated but is even on the increase following the "war against terrorism" in Afghanistan. At present, our greatest concern is the looming outbreak of the war against Iraq. Such war, if waged, will undermine the fundamental principles of international relations in the UN Charter, upset the world economic and political settings, negatively affect world trade, investment, transport and tourism, raise insurance cost and cause volatility in prices. These changes will exert severe impacts on all of us.

"In my view, we should join hands to prevent this scourge. I propose that ASEAN Foreign Ministers be assigned to work out recommendations in this direction.

"2. In our region, besides potential destabilizing factors, there have emerged new factors of grave concern, notably terrorism and transnational crimes. On this occasion, let us once again express our deep sympathy for President Megawati and President Arroyo on the heavy losses inflicted by the recent bombings. Such attacks have not only caused instability in a number of countries and the whole region, affected economic development but also eroded the confidence of the international business community in South East Asia amidst the harsh competition in trade and investment across the globe.

"In this context, we are required to double our efforts to maintain our countries' stability and settle differences and disputes among us. We must also strengthen intra-ASEAN cooperation to minimise destabilizing factors, including terrorism and transnational crimes.

"3. In addition to political and security repercussions, the complex developments in the world have had extremely adverse impacts on our economic development. It seems that the world economy has not recovered as fast as expected, instead there remain numerous factors of economic stagnation. Purchasing power in our major markets declined, various trade barriers were erected, oil prices incessantly fluctuated, and prices of farm products fell sharply. Against that backdrop, if the war against Iraq breaks out, the consequences are unforeseeable.

Regarding measures to respond to these challenges, PM Khai said:

"First, against the current international backdrop with a lot of complexities and uncertainties, peace and stability still stand as the ultimate desire of all our countries. As a regional organization respected worldwide, ASEAN can and should seek proper ways to make worthy contributions to the maintenance of peace and stability in the world. We should join the international community in combating terrorism and preventing the outbreak of conflicts.

"In South East Asia, apart from minimising the existing potential threats that may cause instability in the region, our immediate task is to effectively deal with newly emerging threats. We are of the view that the adoption of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea between ASEAN and China followed by the formation of a Code of Conduct in the East Sea is of crucial importance, which will create the premises for a fundamental and lasting solution to disputes in the East Sea.

"In addition to the endeavours of each country to maintain stability and security within its own territory, realities show an urgent need to further enhance cooperation in the fight against trans-national crime, especially terrorism which is widely spreading in our region.

"At the same time, we should endeavour to peacefully address all differences and disputes, prevent them from turning into new hot spots which may cause instability in the region and adversely affect the image of our Association.

"Second, development continues to stand as the top priority of all countries. This has become more important especially after the economic-financial crisis in the late 1990s and in the current international economic conjuncture.

"In this regard, we need to make greater efforts aimed at increasing intra-ASEAN trade, which accounts for a fairly small proportion. To that end, apart from implementing the CEPT/AFTA, we should implement measures aimed at facilitating trade, reducing non-tariff barriers, encouraging "barter trade", establishing sectoral associations, etc. In this connection, intra-ASEAN investment should be attached with great importance regardless of many difficulties in the immediate.

"Regarding services, apart from the negotiations on market access, we should broaden cooperation in the areas where we can supplement and support each other. We welcome the signing of the Agreement on Tourism Cooperation, an area in which our region possesses huge potentials. I would suggest that ASEAN Ministers in charge of tourism be instructed to soon work out plans to implement this Agreement, including the organization of the ASEAN Cultural Weeks to promote tourism.

"So far, we have implemented numerous cooperation programmes, including those within the Mekong Sub-region. In this regard, I highly appreciate the results of the Greater Mekong Sub-region Summit, which I believe have created new dynamics for our cooperation. Also in this connection, I wish to emphasize two points. First, cooperation programmes should be integrated and coordinated so as to avoid duplication and overlapping. Second, greater efforts should be made in the implementation of adopted programs. Priorities should be given on a selective basis in view of our limited resources. We hold the view that, the construction of the Singapore-Kunming Rail-links and the ASEAN Road Network with the West-East Corridor closely linked to them should be given high priorities.

"Third, another very important direction for our cooperation is the implementation of the Initiative for ASEAN Integration which aims at bridging the development gap among ASEAN Member Countries. We highly appreciate the assistance extended by the more developed members to the less developed ones in the four priority areas, namely promotion of economic integration, infrastructure development, information technology and human resource development. It is our hope that such assistance and support will be increased in the future.

"Fourth, we are delighted to see that despite many difficulties facing the region and complex developments in the world, ASEAN is still attached with great importance to by our Dialogue Partners. At this Summit, ASEAN and China, Japan and India will sign important cooperation Agreements. At the recent APEC Summit, the United States has also launched a new initiative for cooperation with ASEAN."