'Connectivity for an Asean Community'

HUA HIN, Thailand - His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, yesterday attended a battery of meetings that included the 15th Asean Summit Retreat; Asean Summits with Dialogue Partners namely the People's Republic of China, Japan, Republic of Korea (ROK), and India; and the Asean Plus Three Summit. The summits were chaired by Thai PM Abhisit Vejjajiva, at a leading hotel in Cha-am.

Yesterday's events started with the Retreat of the 15th Asean Summit, which in a titah, His Majesty noted the importance of enhancing Asean "connectivity", where greater efforts to link the countries in the region together could play a vital role in building the Asean Community.

His Majesty viewed that such connectivity would facilitate the movement of goods, services, capital and skilled labour, thus promoting economic growth and create other opportunities. His Majesty believed that this could become more evident as Asean moved further towards achieving its Economic Community, particularly when it substantially eliminates almost all tariffs in January 2010.

His Majesty also stated that these linkages would continue to strengthen Asean's efforts in addressing global challenges such as climate change, natural disasters, and food and energy security.

His Majesty highlighted the need to improve coordination and accessibility during emergency situations, and was pleased to note that the Asean agreement on disaster management would come into effect soon.

His Majesty further encourage Asean to cooperate with its dialogue partners in ensuring a mutually meaningful outcome of the 15th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) to be held in Copenhagen in December 2009.

At the end of the session, the leaders adopted the "Cha-am Hua Hin Declaration on Strengthening Cooperation on Education to Achieve an Asean Caring and Sharing Community", "Asean Joint Statement on Climate Change to the 15th session of the Conference of the Parties on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the 5th session of the Conference of Parties serving as the meeting of Parties to the Kyoto Protocol", and "Asean Leader's Statement on Asean Connectivity".

At the 12th Asean-China Summit, His Majesty highlighted the significant progress made in the dialogue relations, and expressed appreciation to China for its new initiatives to enhance cooperation in the areas of energy and law enforcement.

His Majesty underscored the need for closer collaboration, particularly in the areas of maritime security and transnational crime. His Majesty welcomed the first formal Asean-China Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime, which would be held in Cambodia this November, and suggested that both sides enhance maritime cooperation to ensure the safety of regional trade.

On the economic front, His Majesty stated that the global economic situation continued to threaten efforts in sustaining economic growth in the region and commented that the recent signing of the Investment Agreement would strengthen cooperation and bring prosperity. His Majesty added that the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Intellectual Property and Standards would enhance the quality of Asean and China's goods and services. His Majesty expressed appreciation to China for its contribution to the region, particularly in establishing the Fund for Investment Cooperation, the Credit Facility, and for China's participation as a development partner in BIMP-EAGA.

With regard to social-cultural cooperation, His Majesty welcomed the on-going efforts in strengthening people-to-people contacts, and looked forward to signing the MOU on the Establishment of the Asean-China Centre to promote cultural, tourism, trade and investment ties between both sides.

His Majesty concluded his titah by expressing appreciation to China for its cooperation and support throughout Brunei Darussalam's tenure as the country-coordinator for Asean-China dialogue relations.

At the 12th Asean-Japan Summit, His Majesty welcomed Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama who joined the summit for the very first time. In his titah, His Majesty encouraged Asean and Japan to continue efforts in implementing the bilateral and regional economic partnership agreements.

His Majesty acknowledged Japan's leading role in energy efficiency and environmental management. In this regard, he expressed appreciation to Japan for the assistance to developing countries in addressing climate change.

He underscored the importance of ensuring sufficient food reserves in the region. In light of this, His Majesty encouraged more investments in the field of agricultural industries, and the sharing of information and technology, as well as capacity building programmes to enhance sustainable food production.

His Majesty observed that people-to-people exchanges were a distinct feature of Asean-Japan relations, and commended Japan's efforts in youth exchanges through the Youth Ship and the East Asia Youth Exchange Programmes.In conclusion, His Majesty stated the Asean attached importance to the dialogue relations, and looked forward to working closely with Japan in further strengthening the partnership.

At the 12th Asean-ROK Summit, His Majesty stated that Asean and Korea celebrated its 20th anniversary last June in Jeju Island, where new ideas were introduced to further broadened and deepened the dialogue relations. His Majesty, in particular, recalled Korea's efforts to address climate change through its Green Growth Strategy and welcomed the recommendations of the Asean-TOK Eminent Persons Group (EPG) to enhance partnership on climate change through the sharing of expertise and technologies.

His Majesty also acknowledged the EPG's recommendation to promote people-to-people exchanges, especially initiatives that involved youth exchange programmes, scholarship schemes, and activities that showcased the diverse culture and heritage.

His Majesty then joined the Asean and Northeast Asian colleagues for the Asean Plus Three Working Lunch, hosted by the Prime Minister of Thailand. At the Working Lunch, leaders exchanged views on regional and international matters.

In the afternoon, the leaders of Asean, China, Japan and Korea proceeded to attend the 12th Asean Plus Three Summit. In that session, His Majesty expressed satisfaction on the progress of the Asean Plus Three process, in particular their involvement in the Chiang Mai Initiative as well as the Asean FTAS.

His Majesty stated that climate change, natural disasters, pandemic diseases and the economic slowdown were issues of common concern, and reiterated the need to work together in addressing these challenges. His Majesty thanked the Plus Three countries for assistance in dealing with the outbreak of A H1N1 Influenza. His Majesty also expressed the view that climate change could affect every aspect of human life. In this regard, he encouraged Asean Plus Three to ensure the meaningful outcomes of the 15th Conference of Parties to the UNFCC.

His Majesty viewed that Asean and Plus Three would continue to promote greater sharing of information, technology transfer and capacity building on climate change. He was pleased that disaster management and emergency response remained a priority area for the Asean Plus Three process. His Majesty was satisfied with efforts made to strengthen cooperation on food security, and looked forward to the establishment of the Asean Plus Three Emergency Rice Reserve.

At the end of the Summit, the leaders issued the "Cha-am Hua Hin Statement on Asean Plus Three Cooperation on Food Security and Bio-Energy Development."

At the 7th Asean-India Summit, His Majesty praised India for its achievements in all fields of development, and was particularly impressed with the vibrancy of its economy.

His Majesty stressed the importance of working together to respond effectively to the current economic situation, and supported the efforts of emerging economies at the recent G20 Summit in Pittsburgh to restore the global economy, market confidence and further growth in the region. His Majesty was pleased that Asean and India had concluded the Agreement on Trade in Goods. His Majesty thanked India for its contribution and assistance to Asean's community building activities, in particular the establishment of the Asean-India Green Fund to promote the sharing of technology and best practices on climate change.

His Majesty concluded his titah by acknowledging India's contribution to the political and security cooperation such as through Asean Regional Forum, and emphasised the need for cooperation in counter-terrorism and transnational crime.

In the evening, His Majesty attended a gala dinner hosted by the Prime Minister of Thailand and his spouse, in honour of leaders attending the 15th Asean Summit, at one of the leading hotels in Cha-am. - Borneo Bulletin (25th October 2009)