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4 November 2009

Asean to set up defence industry council

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The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), excluding Myanmar, have agreed in principle to set up a defence industry council similar to the European Defence Agency and European Defence Industry Council, Malaysian Defence Minister Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was quoted by state news agency Bernama as saying.

The bloc spent $18.75 billion  for new defence equipment in 2008, which the minister said, was small compared to the global defence expenditure. The amount does not include other associated expenditure such as support, logistics and training, though.

The 10-member grouping felt that such collaboration under the Asean Security and Defence Industry Council (Asdic) would enable them to tap the huge security and defence market in the region and reduce dependency on other parts of the world.

"Some of the ministers suggested that we include industry players in the proposed Asean Security and Defence Industry Council. Indonesia, for example, asked us to prepare a comprehensive paper on this," he said after attending the retreat of the Asean Defence Ministers Meeting in Bangkok, Thailand.

He said his Asean counterparts had suggested that they develop the industry according to the strength and facilities available in each country, as well as starting with a niche market and later collaborating with global players.

Dr Ahmad Zahid said that in the West, the defence industry had been instrumental in various technological breakthroughs, creating spin-offs into the civil sectors and becoming a major source of revenue for the participating countries.

He said countries like Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Brazil, South Africa, India and China, which had also adopted similar approaches, had developed very competitive industries, both defence and dual-use based.

The proposed collaboration, he said, would integrate various industrial and technological capabilities such as aerospace, weapons, automotive or naval sectors that have already been developed by some of the Asean countries.

Citing such initiatives in Europe, he said it could be government-funded projects which included building ships, tanks and others which were not just for military purposes but for humanitarian efforts, disaster relief and joint exercises such as training, border patrols and peace-keeping missions.

"There are bound to be issues and challenges such as ownership of technology, security issues, export control and trust. But we have to start somewhere." he said.


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