Accessibility links

ASEAN Leaders Sign Cooperation Agreements - 2003-10-08


Southeast Asian leaders have signed cooperation agreements with China, Japan, South Korea and India in order to reduce trade barriers within a region whose members increasingly are competing with each other for foreign investment and overseas markets.

Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri called the two-day summit successful and said it led to greater support for ASEAN among some of the major powers in Asia.

"The leaders of China, Japan, the Republic of Korea and India commended ASEAN leaders for signing the declaration of ASEAN Concord Two, or Bali Concord Two," she said. "They expressed support for ASEAN in its endeavors to combat terrorism and other transnational crimes."

ASEAN Concord Two pledges to create an economic community of 500 million people in Southeast Asia by the year 2020.

The leaders of the 10-member group Wednesday also signed agreements launching framework negotiations to create free trade areas with Japan and with India. And they agreed to speed up a similar accord launched with China last year.

Indonesia's foreign minister, Hassan Wirajuda, said South Korea's president also raised the issue of a free trade area with his country.

He said when these agreements come into force in 10 years, as is expected, they will go a long way toward creating a free trade zone among East Asia's two billion people.

"When in the future ASEAN establishes its free trade area with China and then with Japan and then with [South] Korea, you can imagine that, actually, we are pretty close to East Asia free trade," said Mr. Wirajuda.

China also signed a friendship treaty that is seen as consolidating an agreement last year aimed at preventing an outbreak of hostilities over a group of islands in the South China Sea.

The ASEAN leaders reiterated their hope that the confrontation over North Korea's nuclear weapons program will be resolved peacefully and urged that the Korean peninsula be made a nuclear free zone.

On Burma, which is facing increased international sanctions after a crackdown on the pro-democracy movement four months ago, the ASEAN leaders welcomed the military government's announcement of a road map leading to democracy and national reconciliation.

This response drew protests from human rights groups holding their own forum in Bali, but ASEAN officials said Burma should be given time to implement the plan.

XS
SM
MD
LG