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Date [ 2013-04-29, 15:25 ]

 Malaysians have been so caught up with GE13, and who can blame them, that scant attention has been paid for an important summit that could affect their future significantly.

(Kuala Lumpur =Koreanpress) by Ramani Rathir =The 22nd ASEAN Summit was held at Bandar Seri Bagawan for two days, from 24th till 25th April, 2013. The theme this time was ‘Our People, Our Future Together.”

The Sultan of Brunei, His Highness Hassanal Bolkiah, chaired the meeting at the end of which 65 issues were agreed upon. Here are some of the main points.

Encouraged by the progress in the implementation of the ASEAN Charter and the Roadmap for an ASEAN Community, the next step is for an ASEAN Community that is politically cohesive, economically integrated and socially responsible in order to take advantage of current and future opportunities, and effectively respond to regional and international challenges. A High-Level  Task  Force  would be established to  review  and  make  recommendations  on  ways  to  strengthen  all ASEAN originations.

 The importance of promoting greater transparency, confidence and understanding of regional defense polices and security perceptions among ASEAN Member States and its regional partners was understood. The first publication of the ASEAN Security Outlook (ASO) in 2013 would be published with regards to this matter. Also to be launched is the Commemorative Publication for the 20th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF).

The Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC) was reconfirmed as the key code of conduct governing inter-state relations in the region and a foundation for the maintenance of regional peace and stability. In this regard, Norway will be given accession to TAC in June 2013.

Further importance was given to defense with moving forward the five priority areas of the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus) process. An ADMM-Plus Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief and Military Medicine Exercise (ADMM-Plus HADR & MM Ex) will be held in Brunei Darussalam from June 17-20, 2013. The focus will be on  disaster management with  the convening of the ARF Disaster Relief Exercise (DiREx) in Thailand on  May 7-11, 2013, the Mentawai Megathrust Exercise 2013-2014 in Indonesia, involving the East Asia Summit (EAS) Participating Countries and the Disaster Emergency Response Exercise (ARDEX), in Vietnam in October 2013.

 Southeast Asia will be maintained as a nuclear weapon-free zone and free of all other weapons of mass destruction. As re-enforcement there will be a signing of the Protocol to the Treaty on Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone (SEANWFZ) as early as possible.

Cooperation will be strengthened on the problems of terrorism and trans-national crime in the region. The 9th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime (AMMTC) to be held in September 2013 in Lao PDR will address these issues. To make ASEAN a drugs free zone and eradicate the trafficking of people, a convention will be held on this.

Total trade of ASEAN grew by 16.8%, from US$2.05 trillion in 2010 to US$2.4 trillion in 2011, as intra-ASEAN trade reached US$598 billion from US$520 billion, an increase of 15.1%, over the same period. ASEAN also continued to attract foreign investors, generating record US$114 billion FDI inflows in 2011, a 23% increase from US$92 billion in 2010. Given the current regional and global economic landscape, there is need to enhance ASEAN’s competitiveness by better facilitating trade and investment. One way would be the introduction of an ASEAN Business Travel Card to ease the movement of business people and investors.

Tourism has been recognised as a major money earner. To this end member countries are to work towards both visa-free travel in ASEAN countries for ASEAN nationals and ASEAN immigration lanes. Under considerations too is an ASEAN Common Visa for non-ASEAN nationals that will facilitate business mobility and tourism.

Progress has been made in land, sea and air transport in support of ASEAN Connectivity. Already completed is the Master Plan and Feasibility Study on the Establishment of an ASEAN Roll-On Roll-Off Shipping Network and Short Sea Shipping, Coming up is  the signing of Protocol 7 on ASEAN Customs Transit System by the ASEAN Finance Ministers. Under study is the creation of a seamless block of airspaces in Asia-Pacific for ASEAN.

Industries such as automotives, electrical appliances, textile and garments are increasingly operating in ASEAN as a single market. Moves are being made to make ASEAN a more dynamic and stronger segment of the global supply chain.

Sports has been included as a priority with 2013 designated as the ASEAN Sports Industry Year. ASEAN will cooperate with the private sector in sports and related activities leading to healthier lifestyles among its population as it move towards the ASEAN Community in 2015. To this end, ASEAN welcomed Myanmar’s hosting of the 27th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in December 2013.

Haze continues to be a serious pollution problem. There will be further intense regional and international cooperation including those under the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, to ensure the full and effective implementation of the zero burning techniques in land clearing.

 Timor-Leste has made an application to join ASEAN. The association will consider the implications that might arise. It is well aware this new nation needs help in its nation building.

The thorny situation in the South China Sea was discussed. Apart from reaffirming the importance of peace, stability, and maritime security in the region, nothing else concrete evolved. A call was made for the peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with universally recognised principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, without resorting to the threat or use of force, while exercising self-restraint in the conduct of activities. ASEAN hoped to apply these principals in its engagement with China. But the dragon has so far refused arbitration en bloc with ASEAN and has suggested a one-on-one negotiation with the other claimants, namely Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and non-ASEAN country, Taiwan.

Asean leaders also expressed concern about North Korea's latest threats. It also reaffirmed support for the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people for an independent state of Palestine and called for an end of the construction of illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories by Israel.

In the end, perhaps the most important agreement made was the reaffirmation of the need to forge a common ASEAN identity and build a caring and sharing society. The association has made its long-term goal to be a people-centered and socially- responsible ASEAN Community that achieves enduring solidarity and unity among all nations and people in Southeast Asia.abc@koreanpress.net

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