Food, energy security discussed

His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade yesterday attended the 41st Asean Ministerial Meeting (AMM) at the Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore.

The ministerial meeting included a retreat; a working lunch; and meetings with the high level panel to establish the Asean Human Rights Body and Legal Experts Group.

During the course of the day, the ministers discussed outstanding Asean matters including the implementation of the Asean Charter; Asean external relations; and exchanged views on a number of regional and international developments, especially food security, energy security, and the financial global situation.

Following the working lunch, His Royal Highness, together with other Foreign Ministers of Asean, witnessed a ceremony in which the Foreign Minister of Myanmar deposited his country's instrument of Ratification of the Asean Charter with the Secretary-General of Asean.

His Royal Highness then attended the Meeting of the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon Free-Zone (SEANFWZ) Commission, at which ministers reviewed the progress of the SEANFWZ Plan of Action.

Yesterday's meeting ended with an Asean press conference on the release of the Post Nargis Joint Assessment Report.

The ministers encouraged all countries to do away with export subsidies and other protectionist policies which they described as price-distorting, AFP reported.

"We discussed how the mounting challenge posed by rising oil and food prices poses a serious challenge to our peoples' welfare as well as our countries' continued economic development," they said in a joint communique.

Prices of basic commodities across the region, including the staple rice, have steeply risen amid a supply crunch coupled with surging world oil prices.

Protests have broken out in Indonesia and Malaysia after governments raised fuel prices to contain ballooning government subsidies caused by climbing world oil prices. China also recently reduced fuel subsidies.

World oil prices traded just above US$130 a barrel on Monday, well off their record highs but far above the 100-dollar level reached as the year began. Global concern has been building over the possible economic impact of soaring oil prices. "We are concerned that the recent volatility and rise of oil prices has adversely affected our economies," the Asean ministers said in a statement at the close of their talks in Singapore that began Sunday night.

They reiterated the need for efforts to ensure efficient functioning of market forces, and for greater cooperation measures such as improved energy efficiency and conservation. - Borneo Bulletin (22nd July 2008)