Thursday, August 9, 2012

Asean faces ‘daunting challenges’ but on track

Thursday, 09 August 2012 13:51 Mizzima News

With just two years to go, Asean must press ahead to realize its objective of an Asean Community by 2015, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen recently.

Dr. Surin Pitsuwan  Photo: Facebook

Speaking to some 200 guests from the diplomatic, government, business, academic, and social communities, the Cambodian leader issued a rallying call for the regional group to stay focused in reaching its regional goals.

“Asean has to double its efforts at all fronts,”he said, according to a story posted on the Asean website on Wednesday, its 45th anniversary.

Questions about Asean’s unity, and even its existence, had emerged in media reports after the group failed to issue a Joint Communique after last month’s Asean Foreign Ministers Meeting. The doubts eased somewhat after Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa met some of his Asean counterparts, and worked out a consensus on a common position.

Expressing confidence in the group’s robustness, Hun Sen cited key statistics and issues, and noted that there was much to celebrate on its 45th birthday.

Starting with the economic front, Hun Sen pointed out the economic relevance of Asean staying united, noting that “in 2011, we witnessed a combined GDP of US $2.2 trillion – up from US$ 1.9 trillion in 2010. Our commitment to free trade saw our total trade soaring to a record US$2.4 trillion, up from US$ 2 trillion in 2010.” He also pointed out that for 2010, Asean  had posted a combined growth of 7.5 per cent – one of the fastest growing regions in the world.

He said that by the end of March this year (2012), Asean has completed about 68 per cent of measures due under Phase I and II of implementing the Asean Economic Community Blueprint, “and will soon implement the Asean Economic Community Scorecard Phased III for 2012-2013.”

From a loose gathering of like-minded member states in 1967, he said Asean’s achievements today have largely reflected the progress and significance of the region, he said.

In highlighting its achievements and progress, he also paid tribute to Asean Secretary-General Dr Surin Pitsuwan, “for his outstanding stewardship of and contribution to Asean."

In his remarks to mark the celebrations, Surin highlighted the significance of Cambodia’s theme for Asean.

“Cambodia had reminded us that we are ‘One Community, One Destiny.’ And it is not just Asean which share a common destiny. In our closely connected world today, our Dialogue Partners, Non-Dialogue Partners – our fortunes are already so intertwined, that we need to be aware of what is happening, and what do is necessary in such an environment,” he said.

“We are facing economic uncertainties in many parts of the world. We are fortunate that we are still growing, and our economies are still healthy. But we need to stay focus, and stay united to pull through these uncertain time,” he added, reminding the audience that if Asean were a single economy, it would be ranked No. 9 in the world.

Cambodia will host the Asean Summit, the East Asia Summit, and other related meetings in November this year.

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