Worrying impact of financial crisis
By James Kon in Beijing

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam expressed concern on the impact of the current global financial crisis in a Titah delivered at the official opening ceremony of the 7th ASEM at the Great Hall of the People, Beijing yesterday.

Speaking on behalf of Asean member countries in the opening ceremony of 7th ASEM, His Majesty highlighted the fact that ASEM has met almost all challenges since its inception.

"ASEM now embraces over half of the world's people. In its twelve years, there has been no challenge that had not involved its members directly whether it be security, the environment, global economics or any other concerns we all share about - climate change, energy and food supplies.

"This time, however, our meeting has probably never been more important. One aspect of globalisation may disrupt all the efforts we have made together. I refer of course to the current global financial crisis.

"The responses by the EU G8 members in Paris earlier this month and those carried out by individual European members to lessen the impact of the crisis have helped a lot in restoring confidence in the global financial market," His Majesty added.

Touching on Asean region, His Majesty expressed "The fear of the crisis turning into a global economic meltdown is compelling us to address the issue immediately. It was just ten years ago that we in Asia experienced the Asian Financial Crisis.

It was particularly a difficult period for many of us in Southeast Asia where we had to go through a challenging process of reform. This brought about the Chiang Mai Initiative which Asean together with China, Japan and The Republic of Korea initiated in addressing short-term liquidity difficulties in the region and to improve the existing international financial arrangements."

Describing the Chiang Mai Initiative, His Majesty revealed, "This was in 2000 and we have gone a step further by expanding the initiative last year and developing a reserve pool of at least US$ 80 billion that we plan with our East Asia Dialogue partners to launch as soon as possible."

"Our exchanges here therefore, are an important stage for us to learn the lessons from these crises that both our regions are experiencing. The circumstances may be different, but their impact is the same a slowdown of the economy. We need to regain the confidence of our people and our businesses and continue to move towards economic integration.

"That is why we feel that the signing of our new Charter earlier this year and the presence of our Secretary-General here will allow us to make a concerted contribution to discussions and will enable us also to take any steps that are needed in our own region.

Speaking of achieving Asean's aspiration His Majesty said, "Our aim in Asean is to be economically integrated and globally competitive by 2015 and the support of our dialogue partners, especially the EU and our Asian colleagues here s crucial if we are to achieve this in terms of market access for products and services and in increasing investment."

His Majesty also thanked ASEM members for all the efforts that they have made over the last two years to strengthen our ties and express his appreciation to all who have hosted events.

His Majesty believed that leaders of Asean will participate constructively share experiences encourage cooperation and promote the goodwill that has been at the heart of all discussions in the forum for the past twelve years.

On China's preparation for ASEM, His Majesty said "After having had the privilege of seeing your magnificent presentation of the Olympic Games, this comes as no surprise to us. The warmth with which your people received the world in August has been matched by your government's welcome to us on this occasion and we are most grateful. It has also been a great pleasure for Brunei Darussalam to work with you over the last two years as coordinator for ASEM. We have greatly appreciated your government's commitment to this process and the outstanding contribution you have made."

Congratulating the new members of ASEM, His Majesty congratulated the new members of India, Pakistan, Mongolia and the Asean Secretariat from our own continent and from Europe, Bulgaria and Romania.

His Majesty added, "We know many of you very well indeed through our work in various Asean dialogues and we are looking forward to strengthening these much-valued relationships through ASEM. The presence of our new colleagues is a great opportunity to widen and deepen the scope of our discussions." - Borneo Bulletin (25th Oct 2008)