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Focus of ASEAN

As the ASEAN landscape is rapidly changing, observers have noted the need for the USA to re-engage quickly,  even though she is facing several challenges on multiple fronts. More telling is the fact that not only China, but even Russia is stepping up  to the plate. For Russia, it was a US$ 1 billion dollar arms deal with one of the founding members of ASEAN  –  Indonesia, while China continues to strengthen her economiclinks with the association of nations, including the long time and close US ally – South Korea.  While an active  US engagement in the region would provide not only  security and stability for the region, it would ensure that American interests and concerns are given due consideration in this part of the world.

The heat is on :  China wants to revv up the momentum and conclude an agreement on China- ASEAN Free Trade Zone negotiations, as expressed by the Chinese Vice Premier, Zeng Peiyan. This was expressed during the 4th round of summit talks in Nanning,China. In the pipe line are plans to develop preferential policies towards port co-operation, a fund to upgrade skills in the  maritime industry, financial assistance plans vis-à-vis port Projects. Infact, joint cooperation with ASEAN nations is expected to push forward the Pan-Beibu Gulf economic zone. Expertise is also being sought to consider the possible Setting up of an industrial park in the Guangxi province, where the Singapore experience
may be modeled upon.

Liberalization : Freer skies
ASEAN transport officials are to meet in an attempt to finalise on the  details relating to unrestricted air access between capital cities of member countries. If successful, then this would be a clear testament of closer integration and cohesion, and even well ahead of the agreed December 2008 deadline. The major beneficiary would be intra ASEAN tourism.
Further, discussions are expected to take place with regards to the integration of  land and sea transport, which will have far reaching benefits for growth in the region, and the maritime industry, in particular. The transport officials will also meet up with their counterparts fromChina and India.

ASEAN Charter : Principles of good governance, democracy, dispute settlement  …..

are to be enshrined in  what is to be known as the ASEAN Charter, when ASEAN leaders hold their summit talks in Singapore, in the month of November. The charter is to have a ‘people oriented’ focus, and will also recommend the creation of a human rights body. This new  constitution  is expected to set in motion the process that will transform the region into community, so as to assert itself better and more effectively, both regionally and globally, and give it a legal identity.


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