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May 24, 2008

Abdullah: Charter crucial to deal with crisis

The Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean) can deal with escalating food prices and supply shortages more effectively once the Asean Charter is in place, Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, was quoted by Kyodo news agency as saying Friday.
Malaysian premier, on his visit to Japan, said the charter would enable Asean to act in concert to tackle food security which has become the region’s biggest concern. Food prices, especially rice, are at an all-time high currently.

Abdullah called on the remaining four members of Asean not to delay in ratifying the charter as this would make it difficult for the grouping to effectively manage rising food prices and supply problems.

The countries yet to ratify the charter include Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Myanmar, while Malaysia, along with Singapore, Brunei, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, have already done so.

"I remain hopeful that the remaining four countries will see the pragmatic wisdom of ratifying the document without any further delay,” he said in his keynote address at the prestigious 14th Nikkei International Conference on the Future of Asia.

"The charter will substantially strengthen the institutions of Asean as well as its processes of decision-making and push Asean to proceed at a more productive pace,” he said in his speech entitled ‘Cooperating for Peace and Prosperity in East Asia’ to some 1,000 key decision-makers and captains of industry.

All 10 Asean countries are expected to ratify the charter before the groupings next summit in Bangkok in November for the document to be legally binding.

Stressing the importance of Asean taking on a more concerted role in addressing pressing concerns, he said cooperating in and facilitating the supply of rice among Asean countries would be a priority in the wake of the fast emerging food security problem.

This includes strengthening the Asean Food Security Reserve and the East Asia Emergency Rice Reserve involving the Asean Plus Three dialogue partners, namely, China, Japan and South Korea.

More on Malaysia

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