ASEAN urged to lead building of East Asian community
Jul 30, 2007, 4:27 GMT
Manila - The Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) was urged on Monday to work for closer ties and deeper cooperation in East Asia to ensure greater prosperity and security for the region amid strained global relations.
In her keynote address at the 40th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Manila, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said the 10-member regional bloc must 'continue to nurture its relations' with key partners in East Asia 'to become a true expanding union.'
'Developing ASEAN is more than creating a regional community,' she said. 'It is about creating a dynamic force in Asia to maximize the benefits of globalization.'
'At a time in the world when there are strained alliances from Iraq to the World Trade Organization, it is essential that new vital alliances will be forged to keep the world stable and strong,' she added. 'Some sort of East Asia community will be a bold step in that direction.'
Arroyo said the establishment of an East Asia community could start with expanding economic linkages between ASEAN members - Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar - and such key partners as China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand.
'Deepening integration on this level would mean completing and eventually forging the individual free trade agreements ASEAN is currently working out with these countries,' she said.
Arroyo also stressed the need for East Asia to boost regional security cooperation on various issues that could impact on the stability of the region, including the North Korean nuclear crisis, disputes over the South China Sea and internal conflicts among individual countries.
'We cannot let these potential conflicts and trans-national problems divide us,' she said.
Amid questions on whether an East Asian community was necessary or not, Arroyo said it was clear that a united region would be stronger.
'Each member nation and the entire region will benefit,' she said. 'An East Asia community will strengthen our economy, security and prosperity.'
With ASEAN at the forefront of the development of an East Asia community, Arroyo said reforms must also be carried out within the regional bloc as envisioned by leaders when they agreed to draft a landmark charter that would transform the group into a rules-based organization in a summit in January.
Foreign ministers were expected to receive a first draft of the proposed charter on Monday, despite continuing disagreements on whether the creation of a human rights commission should be included in the document.
Myanmar has blocked the inclusion of the human rights body in the charter, while other new members have also objected to the enforcement of sanctions against errant members as well as a shift from a consensus-based approach of decision-making to voting.
Despite the difficulties, foreign ministers were confident that a proposed charter would be submitted to leaders in Singapore in November.
'Building the ASEAN community is a long-term endeavour,' Arroyo said. 'There are no shortcuts or quick fixes. But we are determined and will persevere to build a community that will provide a more secure, stable and prosperous life for all people.'
'ASEAN has long been a force for regional peace and progress for 40 years,' she added. 'The task ahead is how to sustain this role for the next 40 years in an era of growing regionalism and deepening globalization.'
The ASEAN foreign ministers will meet with counterparts from 17 dialogue partners starting on Tuesday. They were expected to discuss various issues, including nuclear disarmament and fighting terrorism.© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur