Thursday, September 22, 2011

ASEAN news:ASEAN to Maintain Its Focus on Domestic and External Challenges

MANILA, Sept. 21 -– ASEAN has made significant achievements, but the regional grouping must jointly address domestic and external challenges, while it maintains its march towards the target of an ASEAN Community in 2015, said Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, at the official opening of the 32nd ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly General Assembly in Phnom Penh.

“ASEAN must have full legal and institutional framework that is in conformity to the ASEAN Charter, including the creation of institutional mechanism for conflict resolution, increasing ASEAN institutional operation efficiency, strengthening coordination between operating agencies, and bolstering resource mobilisation to promote the implementation of initiatives,” said the Prime Minister, identifying some of the key areas which need attention from the grouping.

Keeping an eye on global economic uncertainties, and the challenges they posed, Mr Hun added that “ASEAN must continue to pay high attention to boosting domestic economic growth through diversification of its growth base, expanding regional cooperation and acceleration of regional integration”.

ASEAN and the Asia-Pacific region is undoubtedly, the fastest growing region in the world.

At a recent meeting in Manado, ASEAN Economic Ministers welcomed the robust performance and continued resilience of the group last year. Exports and domestic demand combined to post a 7.5 per cent growth last year. Intra-regional trade and investment flows also showed upward momentum, and are likely to support domestic growth this year, which is projected between 5.7 and 6.4 per cent.

ASEAN’s total trade grew at 32.9 per cent last year, as trade value jumped from US$ 1.54 trillion in 2009, to US$ 2.04 trillion last year. The group has posted a 19 per cent decline in 2009.

ASEAN has also remained one of the most attractive destinations for foreign direct investment (FDI), which reached US$ 75.8 billion last year, doubling the 2009 level, and surpassing the pre-global crisis peak in 2007 at US$75.7 billion. Over the last decade, FDI flows in ASEAN grew at an annual average rate of 19 per cent.

The sum of these figures point to a better livelihood for the people, and this is something which AIPA must constantly remind itself, noted Mr Heng Samrin, President of the National Assembly of Cambodia and President of AIPA.

“We are mandated with the role and the duty to act, and bring meaningful and sustainable changes to the lives of people. It is not charity, but it’s our moral and humanitarian duty as parliamentarians to ensure environmental, economic, and social justice,” he said in his speech to the delegates of the General Assembly.

Dr Surin Pitsuwan, the Secretary-General of ASEAN, in his address delivered by Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN for Community and Corporate Affairs, Mr Bagas Hapsoro, also pointed out that “AIPA is a collection of the most representative of all ASEAN institutions and this spells great responsibilities for the Assembly.”

DSG Bagas also congratulated Myanmar for being inaugurated as a full-fledged member of AIPA. He was confident that the country’s Member of Parliament, Pyidaungsu Hlutauw, will participate actively in all cooperation and activities of the AIPA in contributing towards further progress of the Assembly.

“As ASEAN move to become a Community in 2015, AIPA will be a key link in that Community. Through your help, ASEAN will be better able to reach out to the people, and through you, ASEAN could get the feedback from our peoples,” said Dr Surin, who added that DSG Bagas is the focal point for the ASEAN Secretariat to collaborate with AIPA.

Noting that prosperity can only come with peace and stability in the region and beyond, Mr Chea Sim, President of the Senate of Cambodia, urged the General Assembly to generate effective strategies that focus on cooperation framework, exchange of information, full enforcement of existing mechanism, legal implementation, and other key matters.

“I also wish to appeal to the General Assembly to pay more attention to the goal and vision of ASEAN Community that focuses on harmony, mutual prosperity and joint efforts to solve disputes by peaceful means based on international laws, UN Charter and ASEAN Charter. We are one family. We should regard the above matter as one of the most important elements in bringing long-lasting peace and prosperity to the region,” Dr Surin stated.

More than 200 delegates and aides from the ASEAN Member States are joined by an almost equal number of representatives from Dialogue Partners, observer organisations, and the diplomatic community.

The General Assembly will end on Friday, 23 September 2011.(DFA/ASEAN)

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