MANILA-- Foreign ministers from 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), China, Japan and South Korea on Monday agreed to strengthen their cooperation to effectively address economic challenges and security issues facing the region.
Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono said his country welcomed the practical cooperation on the financial and economic front the ASEAN Plus Three (APT) forum had developed over the past 20 years, especially amid growing protectionism in the world.
Japan hopes to closely cooperate with the ASEAN Plus Three countries in order to increase the predictability of a regional or world economic trends, reduce vulnerabilities as well maintain and strengthen free and fair trade regime, he said at the opening of the 18th ASEAN Plus Three Foreign Ministers' Meeting held here.
Republic of Korea Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said the region successfully overcame common regional challenges by launching the ASEAN Plus Three cooperation framework.
Anti-globalization sentiments and protectionist threats, to just name a few, are gaining force in many parts of the world, fuelling global economic and political uncertainty, she said.
Kang noted that terrorism is also directly threatening the safety and well-being of the people.
I think we can all agree that the Asian region is no longer immune to terrorist attacks, she said.
Kang believed that ASEAN Plus Three, the most well institutionalized vehicle for East Asian regional cooperation, is playing an instrumental role in keeping abreast of the rapid changes in the international landscape.
To give you just some tangible examples, we are running a total of 67 cooperation mechanisms spanning 22 areas including in finance, food security, education and health. We have implemented approximately 400 projects over the past five years, she said.
So far, the ASEAN Plus Three has largely been a crisis-driven mechanism. We should now strive to make it more forward looking and future oriented. Let us remind ourselves the vision we had in the beginning of achieving a region of peace, prosperity and progress, she added.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi highlighted the important progress made by forum, including the Chiang Mai Initiative as well as those in connectivity, people to people exchanges and sustainable development.
The Chiang Mai Initiative is a multilateral currency swap arrangement among the ASEAN Plus Three members.
Against backdrop of globalization and emerging protectionism, it is important for Ten plus Three countries to show their responsibility as a main vehicle of East Asia cooperation, deepen practical cooperation and promote East Asia community. These are important topics for us, he said.
Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano noted that since its establishment in 1997, APT cooperation has been enhanced beyond its original focus on economic cooperation.
Cayetano said it has expanded from financial and economic stability to include regional and global security, food security, connectivity, energy, health and pandemic disease, biodiversity conservation, tourism, poverty alleviation and disaster management, among others.
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) will serve as a centerpiece to ASEAN's development into a dynamic economically integrated community. We will express our common desire to work with our trading partners in pushing for the conclusion of the RCEP negotiations as soon as possible, he said.
RCEP aims to link ASEAN, an economic powerhouse with a market of 600 million people, to its six partner countries, creating a bigger market of 3.5 billion people. These are Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand, with which ASEAN has free trade agreements (FTAs).
He added forum members are broadening APT cooperation in addressing the traditional and non-traditional security issues such as terrorism and violent extremism, transnational crime and cyber-security.
Source: Philippine News Agency