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Carlyle A Thayer
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) held its tenth summit in Vientiane, Laos from 28-30 November. Immediately afterwards, a meeting of the ASEAN Plus Three (China, Japan, South Korea) was held. In addition, ASEAN leaders met separately with their counterparts from China, Japan, South Korea, Russia, India and Australia/New Zealand.
The Tenth Summit considered a wide-ranging agenda of domestic and external issues. It adopted four major documents: the Vientiane Plan of Action, the ASEAN Security Community Plan of Action, the ASEAN Socio-cultural Community Plan of Action and the Framework Agreement for the Integration of the Priority Sectors.
The Vientiane Plan of Action set out a six-year road map to deepen regional integration and narrow the development gap among ASEAN members. The Summit endorsed the creation of the ASEAN Development Fund to assist its newer members and invited ASEAN's dialogue partners to contribute. The leaders of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam held their first ever summit.
The plans of action for an ASEAN Security Community and an ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community comprised part of the Association's strategy of creating an ASEAN Community by 2020 based on three pillars. The third pillar is the ASEAN Economic Community. In order to speed up economic integration, Southeast Asia's leaders agreed to advance to 2007 the deadline for lowering intra-ASEAN trade tariffs in eleven priority sectors. These sectors account for over half of intra-ASEAN trade including textiles but not automobiles. ASEAN also adopted a declaration against trafficking in women and children.
On the external front, ASEAN shored up its burgeoning relationship with China by signing eight major documents. The most important was the Plan of Action to implement their Strategic Partnership for Peace and Prosperity. These joint agreements set out cooperative efforts in transportation, culture, trade in goods, trade in services, information technology and a dispute settlement mechanism.
In a significant development, China and ASEAN agreed to advance the goal of creating a free trade area by eliminating tariffs on a range of agricultural and manufactured goods by 2010. The four new members of ASEAN have been given until 2015 to comply. China separately proposed a working group to explore possibilities for cooperation in the South China Sea.
ASEAN and Japan agreed to cooperate in the fight against international terrorism, while Russia and South Korea acceded to the ASEAN Treaty of Amity and Cooperation. Separate meetings with government leaders from India, South Korea, and Australia/New Zealand resulted in general statements about future areas of cooperation.
The Vientiane meeting marked the first time since 1977 that Australia has attended an ASEAN Summit. It was also the first time that Australia and New Zealand attended together. The result was agreement to begin negotiations to establish an ASEAN-Australia/New Zealand Free Trade Area by 2007.
WATCHPOINT: Will protectionism and differences in levels of development impede the various schemes for economic cooperation and integration adopted by the Tenth Summit and its associated meetings? Will the first East Asia Summit scheduled for Kuala Lumpur in 2005 advance the objective of creating an enlarged free trade area?
About our company:
AFG Venture Group is an Asia and Australia based corporate advisory and consulting firm with over 20 years experience in creating alliances, relationships and transactions in Australia, South East Asia and India; including a 15 year history of corporate and equities advisory in Australia, undertaking merger, acquisition, divestment, fund raising and consulting for private and public companies.
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