Prince sees need to cooperate in addressing challenges

His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade yesterday attended the Asean Plus Three Foreign Ministers Meeting at the Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore.

The meeting brought together the Foreign Ministers of Asean member states, the People's Republic of China, Japan, and the Republic of Korea. The ministers reviewed the progress of Asean Plus Three cooperation and discussed outstanding regional and international matters.

His Royal Highness expressed appreciation for the good progress made in Asean Plus Three cooperation, and the efforts being made by China, Japan and Korea in the Six-Party talks.

His Royal Highness emphasised the importance of the Asean Plus Three process, and highlighted the need to cooperate in addressing current challenges, especially the global financial situation and food and energy security.

His Royal Highness, in the afternoon attended East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers Informal Consultations with other Foreign Ministers of Asean, Australia, the People's Republic of China, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea and New Zealand.

Asia-Pacific nations discussed on Tuesday the possibility of improving food security for the region, as they sought to counter the twin threats of surging food and fuel costs, Reuters reported.

Foreign ministers from Asean nations met their counterparts from China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand on Tuesday to discuss regional security issues, after agreeing on Monday that rising oil and food prices threatened their continued economic development.

"We want to avoid situations of curbs on trade and calls have been made for market mechanisms to operate more efficiently," said Singapore foreign ministry spokesman Andrew Tan.

East Asia has an emergency rice mechanism that was established in 2002, but "many of these mechanisims need to be looked at and improved as a result of the prices we have seen", said Tan, briefing reporters about the Asean discussions.

Vietnam, the world's third largest exporter last year, said on Monday it will impose export duties on rice, while world number two exporter India has yet to lift export curbs, leading to supply worries that have boosted prices this year.

Oil prices surged to record highs near $150 a barrel this year, lifting transport and fertiliser costs for agriculture, and benchmark rice prices in top exporter Thailand hit a record in April.

Indonesia, the world's top rice importer, has called on the United Nations to organise a high level meeting on food security, and Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda said Jakarta had also proposed an Asean food summit.

"We thought at the regional level we could do more to ensure food security in our food supply for our people - for that matter, efforts need to be done to increase production and supply and to enhance food reserves," Wirajuda told reporters on Tuesday.

Philippine Foreign Minister Alberto Romulo said the rising cost of food and fuel could have potential social and security implications for countries in the region.

"I think in Asean we don't have a rice shortage because we have enough rice. It's the distribution," he said. - Borneo Bulletin (23rd July 2008)