US-RI relation: History, progress and prospect

Marty M. Natalegawa, Washington, DC | Wed, 09/22/2010 10:00 AM | Opinion in the Jakarta Post

Nations today must face the fact that we live in a globalized and networked world. And that this world is in the grip of formidable challenges.

The United States and Indonesia have been addressing the need for change. It stands to reason that both will get better results — and contribute more to the welfare of humankind if we work together.

Today, the United States and Indonesia — respectively the second and the third largest democracies in the world — which means that we are both totally committed to the same values and ideals, including those enshrined in the UN Charter. Thus, the prospect for our bilateral relations are the best they have ever been.

It was in recognition of this fact that in November 2008 President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono proposed the idea of forging a Comprehensive Partnership between our two countries.

The United States quickly and favorably responded to the idea. When State Secretary Hillary Clinton visited Indonesia in February 2009, she proclaimed support for such a comprehensive partnership — covering a wide range of fields that are crucial to Indonesia’s development, including education, health, science and technology, food and energy security, national security, trade and investment and sustainability of the environment.

If I had stood before you like this some 12 years ago, I should not be talking of a Comprehensive Partnership with the United States. At that time, Indonesia had a gaping democracy deficit. In the midst of the Asian financial crisis, we suffered a negative GDP growth of 13.5 percent — and social turmoil.

But today we have a new Indonesia. We have launched and sustained an era of reformasi. Having made our democratic transition, we are conscious of the significance of being recognized as the world’s third largest democracy — with democracy, Islam and modernization can flourish together.

Our democracy is delivering socioeconomic dividends to our people. Thus when the global financial crisis struck in 2008, sending the world economy on a tailspin, the Indonesian economy grew by 6.0 percent that same year and by 4.5 percent in 2009. It is expected to grow by 5.5 percent this year and by 6.4 percent next year — the third highest growth rate among G20 countries after China and India.

Our non-oil exports were valued at US$100 billion last year. Our foreign exchange reserves have reached an unprecedented high of $78 billion, while our debt to GDP ratio went down to an unprecedented low of 27.8 percent. Our poverty rate continues to decline, our credit rating keeps rising. Agriculture being the backbone of our economy, our food security continues to strengthen.

Because our people are enjoying these dividends, our democracy is robust and durable. Our national unity is strengthened. As a nation we are more socially cohesive than ever before.

We have transparency in government. The democratic checks and balances of power are always at work. Our justice system has scored many notable victories against the vice of corruption. But we are not complacent. We have to continue to invest in and nurture our democratic institutions.

Not least, we are striving to ensure that there is no disconnect between our democratization and the regional milieu. It is certainly not a coincidence that Indonesia’s democratic transformation over the past decade has been paralleled by change within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Thus in the same way that we have a democratic Indonesia, we have an ASEAN that is transforming itself by its commitment to democratic values.

As Indonesia consolidates within, and contributes to ASEAN community-building, it is also promoting its world view on the so-called regional architecture building.

A geopolitical shift to the Asia-Pacific region has been quite pronounced and likely to continue.

Indonesia believes that the Asia-Pacific region need not slip into a Cold War-type environment of mutual suspicion and hostility. In this, ASEAN’s role will continue to be invaluable.

Today, ASEAN continues to strive to earn such central role by tackling head on the issue of regional architecture building. The forthcoming expansion of the East Asia Summit by including the United States and the Russian Federation is one such response.

Indonesia looks forward to working closely with the United States within the framework of the envisaged Comprehensive Partnership to help bring about such a regional architecture. Beyond the Asia-Pacific region, we look forward to collaborating with the United States in the reform of the United Nations that reflects the realities of the contemporary world.

Within the framework of G20 we will strive alongside the United States to reform the international financial architecture and give the developing world a bigger say in global economic-decision making.

We can pursue a common advocacy for nuclear disarmament that will eventually lead to a world of zero nuclear weapons. And a common advocacy to save our tropical forests, our oceans and coral reefs — to mitigate and control the ravages of global warming.

We invite the United States to support our efforts at promoting democratic values through such endeavors as the Bali Democracy Forum. We are ready to work with the United States in fostering peace and mutual understanding wherever there is conflict or tension.

And we invite the United States to join our ongoing efforts to promote interfaith and dialogue among civilizations — as a way of building a bridge of mutual understanding and cooperation between the Western and Muslim world.

There is so much that we can do with this Comprehensive Partnership. The success of that comprehensive partnership will tell a great deal not just about the United States and Indonesia, not just about the West and about Islam but also about democracy and how it can be made fruitful for all humankind.

The article is an excerpt of keynote speech by Foreign Minister Marty M. Natalegawa at the Banyan Tree Leadership Forum, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, DC on Sept. 17, 2010.

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Can ASEAN be a peace mediator?

Agus Wandi, Jakarta | Fri, 08/13/2010 9:19 AM | Opinion in the Jakarta Post

An international peace mediation workshop was recently organized by the European Commission (EC) and the Crisis Management Initiative (CMI) in Jakarta to promote cooperation between ASEAN and the European Union (EU) on conflict mediation and prevention in the region.

Among the key questions that emerged was how to promote ASEAN as an effective vehicle for peace mediation. The EU has been responsible for a number of initiatives to strengthen its mediation and dialogue capacities in this field, and ASEAN is now taking steps to model itself on best practices from other regions in order to develop itself as a leader in peace building.

Unlike some skeptics, I believe ASEAN has the potential to become an effective regional body for crisis mediation and prevention. ASEAN has already begun developing programs to promote peace in the region in “its own way”.

The ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC) blueprint provides a number of recommendations for conflict management put forward by the institution. The blue print envisages three pillars. Among them is a cohesive, peaceful, stable and resilient region with shared responsibility for a comprehensive state of security.

The blueprint outlines ASEAN’s commitment to conflict prevention, preventive diplomacy and post-conflict building. It also provides an action plan to achieve targets in these areas through research, cooperation and development of an institutional framework to deal with regional conflict and security issues.

Outside this blueprint, in the last few years, ASEAN has also engaged in conflict resolution issues. As a regional entity, ASEAN worked with the EU to monitor the implementation of the MoU under the Aceh Monitoring Mission (AMM). While ASEAN plays a minor role in the AMM, it could be the start of its deeper involvement in the future.

It is now time for ASEAN to walk the walk. There is a challenge for the regional body to solve its own dilemma. On the one hand, the region has indicated it would like to participate in initiatives to promote conflict prevention in the region, to add another sphere of influence for the region as it emerges as a strong economic player on the international stage.

On the other hand, the desire for peace is constrained by both its internal framework, which protects the sovereign rights of its members from external interference, and its reluctance on the regional level to open itself to third-party involvement, especially from non-ASEAN countries.

In reality, most conflicts in the region would benefit from the experience and expertise that third parties from other conflict areas could provide in building trust between governments or mediating peace talks.

Indonesia and the Philippines have engaged teams of conflict resolution experts in developing the strategic frameworks for ending conflicts in their countries, and building toward stable peace. The benefits of working together with experienced actors outside the region could enrich ASEAN countries.

In the case of the peace process in Aceh, many feared that external mediation would bolster the separatist movement. However, this was by no means the case. Peace was achieved, the province did not become politically diffused, and economic development has become the focus for long-lasting peace.

Aceh has a long way to go to prove the success of the special autonomy status it was granted by the central government; and the success of the peace process was strongly affected by aid entering the region following the 2004 tsunami. Regardless, the process in Aceh illustrates how third party involvement, through mediation and assistance, can be important in supporting the attainment of a wider peace.

ASEAN needs to learn from this experience on a regional level. The AMM is a successful example of the first partnership ASEAN has undertaken with a regional counterpart to address conflict in one of its member states: In this case, with the EU.

Because of the general resistance in the region in regards to outside “meddling” in state and regional affairs, ASEAN would be best served by developing its own institutions for conflict mediation and conflict prevention. Strengthening the capacity and scope of peace building mediators already working in ASEAN countries should be explored and promoted.

An interesting recommendation put forward in the blueprint is the establishment of an ASEAN center for peace and reconciliation. This center could focus on research about social crises in the region, and provide recommendations for peace building activities and internal mechanisms for managing and preventing conflict.

ASEAN civil society should also be involved in conflict prevention initiatives in the region. Many civil society groups have more extensive experience in this field than their governments, and have built strong networks among themselves. Bringing civil society groups on board and learning from their experience is crucial, as the identity of an ASEAN peace building agency is being formed. The wisdom of a handful of respected actors in countries across the region who have worked on peace mediation needs to be harnessed and replicated.

The key is for ASEAN to continue exploring what role it can best play to contribute to peace in the region. The ASEAN blueprint is a good start, but further action is crucial.

The writer is director of the IDCC (International Development and Crisis Consultants) and a post-conflict consultant.

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ASEAN and contemporary US diplomacy in East Asia

Evi Fitriani, Jakarta | Fri, 08/13/2010 9:09 AM | Opinion

Despite US President Barack Obama twice postponing his visit to Indonesia, there has been a marked increase in high-ranked US officials reaching out to Southeast Asia.

The most prominent being the visit by US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to Jakarta to discuss the future of US-Indonesian military cooperation and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presence at the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in Hanoi last month.

China’s economic growth and its ability to capitalize its economic strength to political-strategic influence in the region and global diplomacy has irritated the US. The world’s sole superpower now depends on Chinese investment to secure its economy.

The US does not only suffer continuous trade deficits against China, but also has to finance its budget on government bonds, much of which have been bought by China.

Clinton flew to China soon after the collapse of American financial market in 2009 to assure the Chinese government that China’s capital is safe in US hands. There is a global shift in power. The US may still be the strongest military power in the world but it needs strong economic support.

In contrast, with high economic growth and around US$2.45 trillion in foreign exchange reserves, the biggest in the world, China can afford to build a very modern military, including a blue-ocean navy that may project its leverage in the Pacific and beyond.

On top of this hard power, China’s business interests have expanded into Africa and Latin America. With a very close link between politics and business in China and the centralized political system controlled by the Chinese authority, economic tools can be used to pursue political-strategic interests, and vice versa.

China has used its economic strength as a powerful tool in international relations which, in turn, may threaten US interests in Asia and around the globe.

In short, China’s economic strength and political-strategic influence have made the US more vulnerable domestically and abroad.

The US’ current outreach to countries in Southeast Asia is to balance China’s influence and mitigate its vulnerability.

America’s traditional ally in Asia, Japan, seems unable to play a significant role in balancing China in Asia due to its domestic political and economic problems.

Japan’s continuing struggle to reform its economic and political systems have taken a toll in the country’s diplomacy and limited its foreign policy. The US can’t rely on Japan to secure US interests in Asia.

Consequently, the US has actively approached ASEAN countries and insisted on joining the East Asian Summit (EAS). While the intensity may be different, all of the 10 members of the ASEAN have had their own historical engagements with the US.

The establishment of ASEAN in 1967 has been widely perceived as one part of the US’ strategy to contain communism in the region during 1960s.

Perhaps, ASEAN is the only realistic choice for the US to pursue its interests in Asia. While it has been criticized for being too weak institutionally and too compromising politically, ASEAN is the world’s longest running geo-political organization after the EU.

ASEAN countries have not only maintained the longevity of their regional institution beyond the Cold War, but expanded the institution’s membership to include almost all countries in Southeast Asia.

In addition, despite the emergence of various regional institutions in the region, ASEAN has developed as the core of Asian regional architecture since 1990s.

While there are frequent questions about ASEAN’s institutional capability to handle regional affairs and crises, ASEAN countries seem to occupy the driver’s seat in Asian regional forums.

Nevertheless, ASEAN’s important position in the regional architecture means the organization’s leaders should not overlook challenges in regard to the US’ revitalized presence in Asia and its accession to the EAS.

History teaches us that the reasons behind the absence of solid Asian regionalism and identity derive not only from domestic problems and inter-state distrust among Asian countries, but also from the presence of external powers like the US in the region.

While traditional US strategy in East Asia is to oppose any single notion of domination, ASEAN should not let the Americans re-establish their own domination in the region.

ASEAN should be able to become the host in Asia and determine the course of Asian regional architecture based on reciprocal respect and mutual benefits between countries and external actors.

Despite the need to use acceptable diplomatic language, ASEAN countries have to be able to safeguard the region’s interests vis-à-vis external actors.

ASEAN countries need to balance China’s influence in the region too. The strategy looks to be to include Japan and Australia in the EAS. With the accession of the US, ASEAN should have more room to maneuver in dealing with China.

The revitalization of US presence in the region can be used to increase Southeast Asian countries’ bargaining power against China’s aggressiveness in the South China Sea. At the ASEAN Regional Forum last week, we saw antagonism between the US and China in handling the Spratly Islands conflict.
Nevertheless, ASEAN should not become the victim of the US – China competition in the region.

ASEAN countries should increase their institutional capability and build inter-state trust in order to become a smart mediator that can deal with external actors without sacrificing their own interests.

The writer is a senior lecturer in the International relations Department, University of Indonesia (Jakarta), and a PhD candidate in the Australian National University (Australia).

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Chairman’s Statement of the 11th ASEAN Plus Three Foreign Ministers’ Meeting

1. The 11th Meeting of the Foreign Ministers of ASEAN and the People’s Republic of China, Japan and the Republic of Korea was held in Ha Noi on 21 July 2010. The Meeting was chaired by H.E. Dr. Pham Gia Khiem, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam.

2. The Ministers noted with pleasure the significant progress achieved so far in ASEAN Plus Three cooperation and in the implementation of the 2nd Joint Statement on East Asia Cooperation and the ASEAN Plus Three Cooperation Work Plan (2007-2017). They stressed the need for further strengthening policy coordination and sustaining economic growth in the region.

3. The Ministers noted with appreciation the ASEAN Leaders’ Statement on Sustained Recovery and Development issued at the 16th ASEAN Summit in Hanoi on 9 April 2010, ASEAN’s initiative to develop a Master Plan on ASEAN connectivity, and ASEAN’s continuous effort to explore effective financing instruments and policies, including a possible ASEAN Infrastructure Development Fund, which would contribute to developing East Asia into a region of enhanced connectivity and dynamic growth.

4. The Ministers noted with satisfaction recent developments in the ASEAN Plus Three financial cooperation. They welcomed the realisation of the Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralisation (CMIM) on 24 March 2010 and noted the on-going preparation for the ASEAN Plus Three Macroeconomic Research Office (AMRO). They also welcomed the agreement of the 13th ASEAN Plus Three Finance Ministers’ Meeting on 2 May 2010 to endorse the establishment of ASEAN Plus Three Bond Market Forum (ABMF) and the Credit Guarantee and Investment Facility (CGIF) and hoped for the CGIF’s operationalisation before the end of 2010.

5. The Ministers welcomed the contribution of US$ 3 million by the ASEAN Plus Three countries in the ASEAN Plus Three Cooperation Fund (APTCF) and looked forward to the increasing number of projects to be proposed by the ASEAN Plus Three countries for funding by the APTCF.

6. The Ministers recognised the rapidly expanding ASEAN Plus Three economic cooperation activities, particularly the realisation of the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA) on 17 May 2010, the establishment of ASEAN-China Free Trade Area on 1 January 2010 and other efforts to liberalize trade among ASEAN Plus Three countries, including studies on the East Asia Free Trade Area (EAFTA) and the Comprehensive Economic Partnership for East Asia (CEPEA).

7. The Ministers were pleased at the achievements recorded in ASEAN Plus Three cooperation on other areas, particularly labour, culture and arts, tourism. They noted that two new areas, namely, information and education, have been added to ASEAN Plus Three cooperation. They welcomed the Inaugural Meeting of the ASEAN Plus Three Ministers Responsible for Information (AMRI+3) on 6 November 2009 in Vientiane, Lao PDR which explored ways and discussed mechanisms of ASEAN Plus Three cooperation in information .

8. They also appreciated Thailand’s efforts to initiate the ASEAN Plus Three cooperation on education and looked forward to the convening of the 1st ASEAN Plus Three Senior Officials’ Meeting on Education (SOM-ED+3) in November 2010 in Thailand to consider a draft ASEAN Plus Three Plan of Action on Education.

9. The Ministers reaffirmed the importance of ensuring food and energy security in the region. In this regard, they welcomed the efforts to create the ASEAN Plus Three Emergency Rice Reserve (APTERR) as a permanent mechanism to ensure food security in the region and the intention to develop a comprehensive strategy on sustainable and integrated food and bio-fuels production and consumption.

10. The Ministers expressed their commitment to work closely together towards a positive outcome at COP-16/CMP-6 to be held in Mexico in December 2010. In this regard, they welcomed the ASEAN Leaders’ Statement on Joint Response to Climate Change on 9 April 2010 as well as Viet Nam’s initiative to convene an East Asia Forum on Climate Change. They encouraged enhanced regional and sub-regional cooperation including in the Greater Mekong Sub-region and the Mekong River Commission (MRC).

11. The Ministers reaffirmed the need to strengthen cooperation in addressing threats of disease outbreaks and were satisfied with the successful completion of the ASEAN Plus Three Emerging Infectious Diseases (EID) Programme Phase II and looked forward to the commencement of the next phase of cooperation with active participation of ASEAN Plus Three countries. The Ministers welcomed ASEAN’s efforts to develop an ASEAN Roadmap on Control of Avian Influenza to ensure the attainment of HPAI (Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza)-free ASEAN by 2020.

12. The Ministers noted new proposals for cooperation in the ASEAN Plus Three framework which, among others, includes cooperation in food safety and standards, water management, deforestation prevention and reforestation, disaster management, including the “ASEAN Plus Three International Conference on Disaster Management” to be held in August 2010 in Tokyo.

13. The Ministers reaffirmed that the ASEAN Plus Three process would continue as one of the main vehicles towards the long-term goal of building an East Asian community with ASEAN as the driving force. At the same time, the Ministers reaffirmed their support for ASEAN centrality in the evolving regional architecture and recognised the mutually reinforcing and complementary roles of the ASEAN Plus Three process and such regional fora as EAS, ARF and APEC to promote East Asian community building.

14. On regional and international issues of common concern, the Ministers noted that despite downside risks to the global recovery from an unprecedented international financial crisis, the East Asian economies are among the first to rebound soundly, and have become one of the key drivers of the global economic recovery. They reiterated the commitment to accelerating and deepening economic structural reforms, promoting domestic demand and employment, resisting protectionism and further promoting trade and investment for the recovery and long-term prosperity of the world economy.

15. The Ministers recognised the importance of issues discussed in the G-20 process in pursuit of strong, sustainable and balanced growth. In this regard, they welcomed the chairmanship of the Republic of Korea in the G-20 Summit in Seoul this November and reiterated their support for the ASEAN Chairman to participate at the forthcoming Seoul G-20 Summit and for the continued participation of the ASEAN Chairman in the future G-20 Summits on regular basis.

16. The Ministers deplored the sinking of the Cheonan ship of the Republic of Korea on 26 March 2010, resulting in the tragic loss of lives. They extended their deep sympathy and condolences to the people and Government of the ROK and welcomed the restraint shown by the ROK. In this connection, they expressed support for the 9 July 2010 United Nations Security Council Presidential Statement, which included the Council’s condemnation of the attack which led to the sinking of the Cheonan ship.

17. The Ministers stressed the importance of maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the region, and called on the concerned parties to resolve all disputes by peaceful means. They reaffirmed their support for the complete and verifiable denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula and encouraged the parties to return to the Six Party Talks in due course. They stressed the need to fully implement the relevant resolutions of the United Nations Security Council. They also emphasised the importance of addressing the issue of humanitarian concerns of the international community.

18. The Ministers looked forward to their next meeting in Indonesia in 2011.

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Post Ministerial Conferences between ASEAN and Dialogue Partners (PMCs+1)

ASEAN today hold a series of Post Ministerial Conferences in Ha Noi with 10 Dialogue Partners, namely China, Japan, Republic of Korea, India, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, EU, the US and Canada. These meetings serve as crucial preparatory steps for the upcoming Related Summits between ASEAN and its Dialogue Partners in the second half of the year. As usual practice, at these Meetings, the ASEAN Foreign Ministers and their counterparts reviewed relationships in the past year and set forth ways and means to promote future cooperation. The main Agendas of these Meetings include:

1. Strengthening effective, substantive and comprehensive cooperation between ASEAN and its Dialogue Partners: from assistance to ASEAN in realising its community-building goal and promoting connectivity to addressing the emerging challenges such as climate change, natural disasters, epidemics, maritime security… At these Meetings, ASEAN adopted Plans of Action in the new period with some Dialogue Partners namely India, Canada and New Zealand.

2. Preparing for the important Related Summits which shall be held at the end of the year, including the annual Summits between ASEAN and China, Japan, the Republic of Korea and India as well as those special Summits with Russia, the US, the United Nations, Australia and New Zealand. The Ministers agreed in principle on the agenda, priorities and documents for these Summits.

3. Exchanging views on strengthening regional cooperation, including the possibility of wider participation and deeper engagement of Dialogue Partners in the process of shaping the regional architecture. The Dialogue Partners reaffirmed their support for ASEAN’s central role in the region and shared ASEAN’s common vision of a future regional architecture that will be multi-level, mutually-supportive, and being built upon existing mechanisms.

ASEAN welcomed Russia and the U.S’s expressed interest in engaging deeper with the evolving regional architecture, including the participation in the EAS as members, with appropriate arrangement and timing.

Following are the salient features of these Meetings:

At the ASEAN Post Ministerial Conference with China

The Meeting was chaired by H.E Dr. Pham Gia Khiem, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Viet Nam, as Country Coordinator of the ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations. On future direction for cooperation, ASEAN and China agreed to: i) hasten the drafting of a new Plan of Action to Implement the Joint Declaration on ASEAN-China Strategic Partnership for Peace and Prosperity for the period of 2011-2015 to be submitted to the 13th ASEAN-China Summit for adoption.; ii) realize the initiatives for ASEAN-China cooperation, including infrastructure, energy, ICT... as well as the use of China-assisted funds namely the China-ASEAN Investment Cooperation Fund worth US$ 10 billion and the Credit Fund for Commercial Exchange of US$ 15 billion; iii) enhancing cooperation for peace, stability and prosperity in the region, including cooperation within the framework of ASEAN+3, EAS, ARF and in implementing the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC); iv) recommend the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations throughout the year of 2011.

At the ASEAN Post Ministerial Conference with Russia

The Ministers welcomed good progress in implementing the ASEAN - Russia Comprehensive Program of Action to Promote Cooperation for 2005-2015; discussed preparations for the 2nd ASEAN-Russia Summit hat will be held later in the year, including recommendation for a draft Statement, convening of the Russia-ASEAN Business Forum; the ASEAN-Russia Cultural Cooperation Agreement; discussed and agreed on specific activities in preparations for the Commemoration of the 15th Anniversary of ASEAN-Russia Dialogue Relations, including the holding of Days of Russian Culture in ASEAN Member Countries.

At the ASEAN Post Ministerial Conference with the United States of America

To further implement the decisions of the 1st ASEAN-US Leaders’ Meeting in 2009 and prepare for the 2nd ASEAN-US Leaders’ Meeting in 2010, the two sides agreed to finalise a Plan of Action to Implement the ASEAN-US Partnership for the new period of 2011-2015; strengthening cooperation in areas of mutual interest, particularly economic, trade and investment cooperation, science and technology, education as well as in addressing emerging challenges like epidemics, energy security, disaster management, climate change… ASEAN welcomed the establishment of a US Mission to ASEAN in Jakarta. ASEAN and the US agreed to work closely toward the convening of the 2nd ASEAN-US Leaders’ Meeting to be held later in the year.

At the ASEAN Post Ministerial Conference with Japan

ASEAN welcomed Japan’s proposal to further promote the cooperation between ASEAN and Japan toward economic growth through enhancing ASEAN connectivity within the framework of “ASEAN-Japan Partnership for New Growth in Asia”. Japan reaffirmed its continued support to ASEAN Community building efforts, including narrowing development gap through contribution to the ASEAN-Japan Integration Fund; and offered to provide 800 million Yen assisting the implementation of the Master plan on ASEAN Connectivity. ASEAN and Japan committed for the early entry into force and effective implementation of the ASEAN-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership (AJCEP).

At the ASEAN Post Ministerial Meeting with Republic of Korea(ROK)

ASEAN and the ROK agreed to work closely for the effective implementation of ASEAN-ROK FTA agreement with a view to increasing two-way trade volume to US$ 150 billion by 2015. The Ministers agreed to submit the proposal to elevate the ASEAN-ROK Dialogue Relations to Strategic Partnership, and a draft Joint Declaration on ASEAN-ROK Strategic Partnership to the Leaders at the forthcoming ASEAN-ROK Summit in Ha Noi later this year.

ASEAN expressed its appreciation to the ROK for inviting Viet Nam, as the Chair of ASEAN, to attend the G-20 Summit in Seoul this November. On this occasion, ASEAN extended deep sympathy and condolences to the Government and people of the ROK for the loss of lives resulting from the sinking of the Cheonan ship; called on all parties concerned to exercise utmost self-restraint and resolve all differences by peaceful means.

At the ASEAN Post Ministerial Conference with India

The two sides adopted the Plan of Action to implement the ASEAN-India Partnership for Peace, Progress and Prosperity for 2010-2015; agreed to strengthen cooperation in trade-economics, science and technology, ICT, environment as well as in response to challenges like terrorism, trans national crimes. The Ministers tasked their officials to initiate projects to be sponsored under the ASEAN-India Green Fund and the ASEAN-India Science and Technology Development Fund. The two sides discussed preparations for the 20th Anniversary of the ASEAN-India Dialogue Relationship in 2012.

ASEAN Post Ministerial Conference with Australia

The two sides emphasized on the significance and importance of effectively implementing the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand FTA (AANZFTA) which entered into force early this year; agreed to accelerate the implementation of the Plan of Action to realise the ASEAN-Australia Enhanced Partnership with focus on areas of education, trade and investment, transport, sustainable use of resources, disaster management, culture, people-to-people exchange etc. ASEAN and Australia agreed to convene an ASEAN-Australia Summit on the sideline of the 17th ASEAN Summit in the second half of 2010 to give strong impetus to the Dialogue relations.

ASEAN Post Ministerial Conference with New Zealand

The Ministers adopted the ASEAN-New Zealand Joint Declaration on Enhanced Partnership for 2010-2015; focusing on cooperation in education, culture and people-to-people exchange. ASEAN welcomed New Zealand’s new proposals for cooperation, including a $ 54 million support for ASEAN students to be trained in New Zealand in the next 3 years. The two sides appreciated the significance and importance of effectively carrying out the AANZFTA which entered into force at the begining of this year. ASEAN and New Zealand agreed to convene the ASEAN-New Zealand Commemorative Summit back-to-back with the 17th ASEAN Summit in Ha Noi.

ASEAN Post Ministerial Conference with Canada

The Ministers adopted the Plan of Action to implement the Declaration on ASEAN-Canada Enhanced Partnership for 2011-2015; agreed to work toward an ASEAN-Canada Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) to enhance trade and investment relations. ASEAN welcomed Canada’s signing of the Instrument of Accession to the TAC, which marks another significant progress in the Dialogue relationship, as well as Canada’s commitment to peace, stability and cooperation in the region.

At the ASEAN Post Ministerial Conference with the EU

ASEAN and the EU agreed to promote the implementation of programmes and activities to realise the ASEAN-EU Enhanced Partnership; especially boosting region-to-region economic cooperation.

ASEAN appreciated EU’s determination to accede to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia and informed the EU of the signing of the 3rd Protocol amending the TAC to be held on 23 July which would pave the way for the EU’s accession to the TAC at an early stage.

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The 17th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF)

Ha Noi, 23 July 2010

The 17th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the last Ministerial Meeting within the framework of the 43rd ASEAN Ministerial Meeting and Related Meetings took place today in Ha Noi, on 23 July, under the chairmanship of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Viet Nam, H.E Dr. Pham Gia Khiem. The Meeting, comprising of a Retreat session and a Plenary session, was attended by Foreign Ministers and Representatives of Foreign Ministers and Heads of Delegations of 27 ARF participants. Earlier, the ASEAN Regional Forum Defence Officials’ Dialogue (DOD) was held on 22 July in Ha Noi.

As usual practice of the Forum, the Ministers exchanged views on international and regional issues of common interest, reviewed the process of cooperation in the past year and mapped out future direction of the Forum for the years to come.

The Ministers emphasized that peace, stability and cooperation for development remain the shared goal and aspiration of countries in the region. They reiterated commitment to work closely toward that end. They welcomed the positive developments in ASEAN’s Community building and regional integration, especially the important decisions made at the last 16th ASEAN Summit. The ARF Participants reiterated their support for ASEAN to continue playing an important role in promoting cooperation and dialogue for confidence building in the region; stressing the importance of bringing into full play ASEAN’s established mechanisms and instruments for peace and regional stability, namely the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC), Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone (SEANWFZ), Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF).

Sharing views on the shaping of the regional architecture, the ARF Participants expressed their support for ASEAN’s centrality; welcomed ASEAN’s efforts in encouraging and promoting deeper engagement of Dialogue Partners with the regional cooperation process, including the participation of Russia and the US in the EAS with appropriate times and arrangements. The Ministers hailed the convening of the first ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Plus with Eight Dialogue Partners in 2010 which underscored the importance of the envisaged ADMM Plus complementing the work of the ARF.

On regional situation, the Ministers expressed deep concern over the sinking of the Republic of Korea’s naval ship, the Cheonan, on 26 March 2010; extended condolences to the Government of the Republic of Korea for the loss of lives in the incident; called on all concerned parties to exercise self-restraint and resolve all disputes by peaceful means. They also encouraged the parties to return to the Six-party talks with a view to achieving the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula for its lasting peace and stability.

The Ministers were briefed by Myanmar on recent political developments in the country, including the progress made in the implementation of the Roadmap for Democracy, especially preparations for the general upcoming election. The Ministers reiterated the importance of holding the general election in a free, fair, and inclusive manner which would lay the foundation for the long term stability and development of Myanmar. The Participants reaffirmed their commitment to remain constructively engaged with Myanmar. The Ministers also extended their support to Myanmar to work with ASEAN and the United Nations in the process of national reconciliation as well as the economic and social development of Myanmar.

The Ministers stressed the importance of maintaining peace, security and stability in the South China Sea; reaffirmed their support for the effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), towards the eventual conclusion of a Regional Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) in the future. They called on strengthening dialogue, promoting confidence building among concerned parties, as well as resolving disputes by peaceful means in conformity with the spirit of the DOC and recognised principles of international law including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

On future direction of the ARF process, the Ministers reaffirmed that ARF remains the key forum to discuss political and security issues in the region with ASEAN as the driving force, while continuing to be one of the pivotal elements in an evolving regional architecture. The Ministers emphasized the need for ARF to maintain its relevance and become more action-oriented in addressing multi-dimensional challenges, especially the non-traditional security threats that have the direct impact on peace and security in the region such as climate change, disaster, maritime security etc.

In particular, the ARF Participants agreed and adopted the Ha Noi Plan of Action to Implement the ARF Vision Statement, which, among others, contains policy guidance for the ARF to develop and implement concrete and practical actions toward the year 2020.

The Ministers adopted also the List of 17 activities for the next inter-sessional year 2010-2011. All ARF Participants agreed on the need to further promoting cooperation towards preventive diplomacy alongside the conduct of confidence building measures; better improving modalities and strengthening effective ARF’s activities; increasing coordination in sharing information and enhancing policy transparency, cooperating in dealing with non-traditional security challenges; intensifying linkages between Track I and Track II as well as encouraging deeper participation of senior defence officials in this Forum. Accordingly, the Ministers agreed to:

- Adopt the ARF Annual Security Outlook Standardised Format (ASO); task senior officials to draft and finalise the ARF Work Plans on Preventive Diplomacy; Work Plan on Disaster Relief; Work Plan on Counter Terrorism-Transnational Crime and Work Plan on Maritime Security; task senior officials and the ASEAN Secretariat to work on possible ways to strengthen the ARF Unit as part of the ASEAN Secretariat.

On the conclusion 17th ASEAN Regional Forum, the Chair of the Meeting issued a Chairman’s Statement and outcomes of the Forum.
On the same day, ASEAN Foreign Ministers and their counterparts witnessed the Signing Ceremony of the Instrument of Accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) by Canada and Turkey; and signed with the TAC High Contracting Parties the Third Protocol amending TAC to allow for the accession of EU to the Treaty.

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Is ASEAN biting off more than it can chew?

Kavi Chongkittavorn
The Nation (Thailand)Publication Date : 05-04-2010

Judging from the number of countries that want to accede to Asean's 1976 Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC), one can easily conclude that the 43-year-old grouping is gaining political clout in the international community. Altogether 27 countries, including the United States, have signed on to the regional code of conduct, which denounces the use of force and any attempt to interfere with domestic politics.

More countries are on the waiting list. Canada, the last Asean dialogue partner that has yet to sign the TAC, has recently begun negotiations with Asean for possible accession by the end of this year.

The European Union signed the protocol for TAC accession last year pending the ratification of the Third Protocol by all signatories. This instrument permits international organisations whose members are only sovereign states to join. Within the Asean inner circle, it is an open secret that the ratification process will take months, if not years, to complete.

The First Protocol in 1987 enabled Papua New Guinea, the first country outside Southeast Asia, to sign the TAC, followed by the Second Protocol in 1988 that has opened the present floodgate for major powers to accede. Under the protocol, only the Asean High Contracting Parties can identify and consent to the accession of those non-Southeast Asian countries.

Last year, Asean made a U-turn after agreeing to include Turkey in the TAC community. Indonesia strongly opposed Ankara's diplomatic move at this juncture, fearing the negative consequences that could impact on Asean as a whole.

Turkey's signing on, if it went as planned last year, would allow Ankara the right to block the EU's accession to the TAC, as it would be a party to the Third Protocol. Deep down, Indonesia fears that Turkey might use the TAC to increase its bargaining power for the latter's effort to join the EU, which has hit a snag.

Is Asean biting off more than it can chew? Obviously, that is the general sentiment prevailing at all echelons of Asean officialdom, even though they would never admit it. At the Asean Summit in Hanoi this Thursday and Friday, Asean leaders will approve guidelines for the TAC that will put the brakes on TAC accession.

One of the key elements is the principle of a "flexible moratorium" placed on future membership. Truth be told, if the EU and Canada joined the TAC, that would leave Afghanistan, Bhutan and Nepal as the only remaining countries not on board the regional code of conduct.

Asean needs to contemplate now on the TAC's future and relevance. As signatories increase, Asean is gradually losing control. Turkey's accession was a case in point.

At the same time, granted the increased global connectivity and shared universal values, norms and standards, several principles in the TAC could be the subject of further discussion and reviews. Otherwise, the 34-year-old regional code of conduct could be a stumbling bloc for Asean's desire to promote its global role in economic or financial, political or security as well as socio-cultural matters.

Furthermore, just look at the dilemma confronting the current Asean chair, Vietnam, in handling the engagement between the Asean leaders and the representatives of civil-society organisations (CSOs). Despite the positive pledge made last February at the 14th Asean summit in Cha-am by the Vietnamese leader, President Nguyen Minh Triet, who welcomed the idea of putting the interface into the Asean framework, the host eventually decided last month at the senior official meeting in Ho Chi Minh City to put on hold the whole experiment with CSOs.

The interface, which was held twice when Thailand was the chair, revealed the lack of trust on both sides. The CSO representatives viewed the Asean leaders as dictators wanting to suppress their people's role and voices, while the leaders thought the non-governmental stakeholders were troublemakers and wanted to embarrass them. Over half of the Asean leaders did not attend the second interface in October.

It is interesting to note that the host has scheduled a meeting between the Asean leaders and the representatives of the Asean Inter-parliamentary Organisation, one of the estimated 200 non-governmental organisations recognised by Asean, ahead of the opening ceremony. As such, the Vietnamese-style "interface" between both sides at the summit would be an informal gathering for 15 minutes, as it is not placed in between the opening and closing ceremonies.

Indeed, Vietnam has rather active community-based organisations as well as professional groups that could contribute to the ongoing process of transforming Asean into a people-centred grouping.

With the proper encouragement of other new members such as Laos and Cambodia, Vietnam could have proceeded in that direction. Earlier discussions among representatives of Asean-based civil-society groups and Vietnam's counterparts yielded encouraging results. Unfortunately, they had no influence on the decision-making.

Furthermore, Asean as a whole has failed to respect the voices of the CSOs and the grass roots. During the inaugural meeting of the Asean Intergovern-mental Commission for Human Rights in Jakarta last week, Asean civil groups were unable to present cases of human-rights violations to the commission. The voices from civil-society groups sounded at times loud and fierce but the AICHR must find ways to take up these issues in the future, as they are real and matters of urgency.

For instance, victims comprising wives and relatives of the Maguindanao massacre in the Philippines as well as those senior citizens who suffered from the past impunity in Indonesia were at the Asean Secretariat to present their cases.

It could have been a better start for the AICHR. Last week's failure has already discredited the AICHR, which is the principle organisation promoting and protecting human rights in Asean. Certainly, the AICHR has a limited mandate, but rejecting appeals directly from the victims is deplorable.

The AICHR plans to complete the terms of procedure for approval by the Asean foreign ministers in July. It is imperative that the AICHR takes into consideration the CSOs' views and contributions. Obviously, some of their recommendations could be too progressive, but there are practical elements as well. As a rule-based organisation, Asean would become irrelevant if its members continued to ignore the people's voices and outcries over injustice.

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