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ASEAN’s economic unity key: minister

ASEAN’s economic unity key: minister

Aiming for the creation of an ASEAN economic community by 2015 will be Cambodia’s focus at today’s Foreign Ministers Retreat in Siem Reap, according to Secretary of State Soeung Rathchavy.

Soeung Rathchavy chaired yesterday’s ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting to adopt an agenda for the 10 regional foreign ministers who are holding their first retreat under Cambodia’s chairmanship.

“Cambodia pledges to continue to build on the momentum that we have achieved thus far and to intensify our efforts to realise … [an] ASEAN Community by 2015,” Soeung Rathchavy said in her opening remarks.

The first ASEAN meetings hosted with the Kingdom as chair have taken place in Siem Reap, the former home of the Khmer Empire, which symbolises Cambodia’s pride, Soeung Rathchavy said.

The agenda decided for the foreign ministers includes the adoption of the ASEAN Declaration on Human Rights, as well as ASEAN “connectivity”, which encompasses the ASEAN +3 – China, Japan and South Korea.

The three “pillars of connectivity” for ASEAN are people-to-people, physical and institutional connectivity – which are all linked to forming an ASEAN economic community by 2015.

Part of achieving the ASEAN economic community includes all 10 ASEAN countries implementing the ASEAN Framework Agreement on Visa Exemption, which would allow for liberal travel for ASEAN citizens between ASEAN states.

Another top agenda item set by senior officials for the foreign ministers yesterday was a resolution to disputes in the South China Sea and implementation of a conduct protocol on the sea. Cambodia has adamantly opposed any “internationalisation” of the South China Sea disputes and government spokesmen have said the issue was one for only those states involved in disputes, which includes Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia and Cambodia’s major ally, China.

This is the second time Cambodia has chaired ASEAN since joining the regional group in 1999, the first being in 2003.

Also on the agenda for the foreign ministers to discuss today is the possible admission of Timor-Leste to ASEAN, a move Cambodia has said it supports, and ensuring the five nuclear powers – China, France, Russia, the UK and the US – sign the ASEAN Nuclear-Weapon Free Zone Treaty, which would commit them to not using or threatening to use atomic weapons within the ASEAN zone.


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