The 20th Asean Summit Concluded
Under the Theme "ASEAN: One Community, One Destiny"

The two-day 20th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit concluded in Cambodia on Wednesday, April 4, 2012.  The Summit aimed to promote the building of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC- click to our prior article). The Summit, held in Phnom Penh, also discussed the progress and challenges faced in completing the ASEAN Community by 2015, including the Political-Security Community, Economic Community and Socio-Cultural Community, reported Xinhua News. Under the theme "ASEAN: One Community, One Destiny", the group adopted four outcome documents.  These are:

1.) The Phnom Penh Agenda on ASEAN Community Building

According to the Phnom Penh agenda, which spelled out ASEAN's priorities for 2012, the bloc will put emphasis on strengthening the mechanism for ensuring financial stability in the region, narrowing development gaps among group members, expanding the ASEAN Infrastructure Fund, protecting the rights of migrant workers, enhancing the ability of disaster management and boosting cooperation in the agriculture sector.  The `Phnom Penh Agenda` document states that all the leaders of the ASEAN member countries have agreed to redouble efforts to create the ASEAN Economic Community by 2015, to transform the region into a single market and production base, as well as a highly competitive region with equitable and integrated economic development, reported the newspaper.

2.) The Phnom Penh Declaration on "ASEAN: One Community, One Destiny"

Quoted in the Phnom Penh declaration, ASEAN countries have also agreed to maintain the integrity and prosperity of Southeast Asia to keep it a peaceful, stable and secure region, and to implement ASEAN`s various initiatives and agreements.

3.) The ASEAN Leaders' Declaration on Drug-Free ASEAN 2015
In the Drug-Free ASEAN 2015 document declaration, the countries` leaders agreed to follow-up technical talks at the ministerial levels and develop a framework related to combatting narcotics distribution.

ASEAN member countries have also agreed to exchange information and experiences related to drug abuse prevention efforts, and coordinate their efforts in the field of narcotics and drug abuse prevention.

4.) The Global Movement of Moderates - a program advocating peace and non-radicalization advocated by Malaysia.

Besides the four outcome documents, the leaders also:
  • Reviewed ASEAN's major achievements in the past years in celebration of the bloc's 45th anniversary.
  • Discussed the progress of the implementation of the ASEAN Charter and Roadmap for an ASEAN Community, ASEAN connectivity and the establishment of the ASEAN Institute for Peace and Reconciliation.
  • Exchanged views on regional and international issues.

The Summit noted that ASEAN’s dialogue partners have offered support to the ASEAN community Master Plan in 2011 and to the other sub-regional cooperation in Southeast Asia such as the Greater Mekong Sub-region Cooperation. The Association lauded these as concrete projects on connectivity. Notable among them are:

- The Singapore-Kunming Rail Link
- The ASEAN Highway Network and Greater Mekong Sub-region Economic Corridors
- The GMS Southern Economic Corridor alignment: Ho Chi Minh City-Phnom Penh-Bangkok; and further extended to Dawei in Myanmar.  This they noted can provide an alternative sea route to connect India and Southeast Asia and would reduce congestion in the Malacca Strait.

The summit also ran along with other meetings, including ASEAN leaders’ meeting with the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) representatives and civil society organizations representatives on the first day.

“This time the deliberation on the ASEAN economy and its integration is critical, particularly in relation to the internal and external cooperation of ASEAN in addressing the current issues of the world economy,” Indonesian Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan said in a statement, reported the Jakarta Post.

The Summit was presided over by H.E. Hun Sen, the Cambodian Prime Minister.  In his opening remarks, the Prime Minister said, "ASEAN has undergone a major transformation since its founding, from a region wracked by conflict, misery, and poverty to a region of peace, stability and development. After more than four decades of development, the ASEAN of today has become a closely- integrated political and economic entity, an influential player in Asia and an indispensable strategic partner of major countries and organizations in the world."

According to the Phnom Penh Times, specialists said Cambodian authorities have hoped to use the summit and the fact that Cambodia has the rotating chair of ASEAN this year as a magnet to encourage foreign investors to study the possibilities Cambodia offers.

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About the Author: 

Christopher W. Runckel, a former senior US diplomat who served in many counties in Asia, is a graduate of the University of Oregon and Lewis and Clark Law School. He served as Deputy General Counsel of President Gerald Ford’s Presidential Clemency Board. Mr. Runckel is the principal and founder of Runckel & Associates, a Portland, Oregon based consulting company that assists businesses expand business opportunities in Asia. (www.business-in-asia.com)

Until April of 1999, Mr. Runckel was Minister-Counselor of the US Embassy in Beijing, China. Mr. Runckel lived and worked in Thailand for over six years. He was the first permanently assigned U.S. diplomat to return to Vietnam after the Vietnam War. In 1997, he was awarded the U.S. Department of States highest award for service, the Distinguished Honor Award, for his contribution to improving U.S.-Vietnam relations.

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