Economic issues to dominate ASEAN Summit

Economic issues are likely to be high on the agenda of the upcoming 21st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and related summits, ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan said Saturday.

Speaking at a press briefing on the sidelines of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh, Pitsuwan said that the gathering is important not only for ASEAN, but also for East Asia and global community as a whole.

The Phnom Penh summit will witness the emergence of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

Through the initiative, “ASEAN’s five existing free trade agreements with six countries (China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand) in the region would be brought under one umbrella agreement, ” Pitsuwan said.

Apart from economic integration, issues such as maritime security, energy, climate change, education, human resource development will also be discussed.

A forum held annually by leaders of initial 16 countries in the East Asian region, East Asia Summit expanded its membership last year to include the United States and Russia.

Newly re-elected U.S. President Barack Obama will arrive in Cambodia on Monday to hold talks with Prime Minister Hun Sen and attend a summit meeting with ASEAN leaders and the 7th East Asia Summit.

Being an open and free forum, any issues could be brought forward at the summit, said ASEAN secretary-general.

He also expressed hope that related talks could be conducted in a constructive, supportive, encouraging and hopeful way.

“We’ll focus on positive advance into the future about cooperation and coordination, mutual confidence-building and carrying forward the spirit of cooperation,” Pitsuwan said.

The 21st ASEAN Summit and related Summits will be held on Nov. 18-20 at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh, gathering heads of state and government from 10 ASEAN nations and eight ASEAN dialogue partners.

The heads of the Asian Development Bank, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization will also take part in the meeting series.

Xinhua