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Speech By The Foreign Minister Of Singapore Prof S Jayakumar At The Opening Dinner Of The 1st ASEM Foreign Ministers Meeting

Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong Fellow
Foreign Ministers V
ice President of the European Commission Manuel Marin
Excellencies
Ladies and Gentlemen

First, let me welcome all my colleagues, the ASEM Foreign Ministers and the European Commission Vice-President, to Singapore for this inaugural meeting of ASEM Foreign Ministers. Singapore is honoured to host this meeting. We are aware that a fruitful ASEM Meeting in Singapore could have a significant impact on the future of ASEM. In this regard, let me say we are especially pleased to have with us tonight Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong who, as we know, was one of the prime movers behind the birth of ASEM. He had first mooted the idea back in October 1994 when he addressed the World Economic Forum in Singapore. His presence tonight testifies to his continued commitment to and support for ASEM.

It is hard to believe that it was only eleven months ago that the leaders of Asia and Europe gathered in Bangkok for the inaugural ASEM Leaders Meeting. Those of us who were present in Bangkok still retain vivid memories of that meeting. We were aware that we were witnessing history in the making.

When the idea was first mooted by Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, he highlighted the fact that the world economy was being powered by the three major economic centres of North America, Western Europe and East Asia. He stressed that whether these three groups would build strong and mutually advantageous ties with one another, or seek to insulate one from the other, would determine if global prosperity will be sustained in coming decades. North America and East Asia had already begun working together in APEC to lower trade and investment barriers. Europe and North America also had well-established institutional linkages. The weak link in this triangular relationship was between Asia and Europe. Prime Minister Goh had therefore argued that it was time for Asia and Europe to engage in a dialogue at the highest level to forge this link, for the benefit of the people of both regions and the world.

Therefore, ASEM was an idea whose time had come. Both Asian and European leaders agreed that there was a need to close the missing link. Hence, both the EU and the ten Asian members worked with great determination to launch ASEM in record time. From conception to realisation, it took only 16 months. Unlike other institutions of inter-regional cooperation which evolve gradually and upwards, ASEM was launched at the highest level in order to jump-start the process.

Although the main agenda for ASEM has been economic, ASEM can only succeed in the long-run if it is more than just a forum for economic cooperation. Hence, our leaders agreed that ASEM should be a multi-faceted and broad-based dialogue covering the whole spectrum of activities including political, economic, cultural, educational and other areas. ASEM must strengthen the political dialogue between the two regions on the basis of equality and mutual respect. People-to-people contacts are also important in order to build human bridges between our two peoples and societies.

ASEM also provides an opportunity for Asia and Europe to cooperate with each other at the global level. Asia and Europe can work together to enhance global peace and stability by cooperating in such international organisations as the UN, WTO, IMF and the World Bank.

When we start our discussion tomorrow morning, we will have many important missions to accomplish. We will need to take stock of overall progress since the Bangkok Leaders' Meeting. We will have to prepare for ASEM II which the UK will host in 1998. There is a lot to review. Ten ASEM-related meetings have already taken place since March 1996. Cooperation has been forged in many areas. Tomorrow, we will launch the Asia-Europe Foundation. When I looked at the 1997 calendar, I noticed that already 15 ASEM events have been scheduled, including two more ministerial-level meetings of Finance and Economic Ministers.

Yet, despite this rapid progress, we should remember that ASEM is still in the budding stage. If we become complacent, the initial interest shown in ASEM could easily wither away. We must therefore nurture the bud until it blossoms. On that note, please rise and join me in a toast to the future of ASEM.

Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong Fellow
Foreign Ministers V
ice President of the European Commission Manuel Marin
Excellencies
Ladies and Gentlemen

First, let me welcome all my colleagues, the ASEM Foreign Ministers and the European Commission Vice-President, to Singapore for this inaugural meeting of ASEM Foreign Ministers. Singapore is honoured to host this meeting. We are aware that a fruitful ASEM Meeting in Singapore could have a significant impact on the future of ASEM. In this regard, let me say we are especially pleased to have with us tonight Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong who, as we know, was one of the prime movers behind the birth of ASEM. He had first mooted the idea back in October 1994 when he addressed the World Economic Forum in Singapore. His presence tonight testifies to his continued commitment to and support for ASEM.

It is hard to believe that it was only eleven months ago that the leaders of Asia and Europe gathered in Bangkok for the inaugural ASEM Leaders Meeting. Those of us who were present in Bangkok still retain vivid memories of that meeting. We were aware that we were witnessing history in the making.

When the idea was first mooted by Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, he highlighted the fact that the world economy was being powered by the three major economic centres of North America, Western Europe and East Asia. He stressed that whether these three groups would build strong and mutually advantageous ties with one another, or seek to insulate one from the other, would determine if global prosperity will be sustained in coming decades. North America and East Asia had already begun working together in APEC to lower trade and investment barriers. Europe and North America also had well-established institutional linkages. The weak link in this triangular relationship was between Asia and Europe. Prime Minister Goh had therefore argued that it was time for Asia and Europe to engage in a dialogue at the highest level to forge this link, for the benefit of the people of both regions and the world.

Therefore, ASEM was an idea whose time had come. Both Asian and European leaders agreed that there was a need to close the missing link. Hence, both the EU and the ten Asian members worked with great determination to launch ASEM in record time. From conception to realisation, it took only 16 months. Unlike other institutions of inter-regional cooperation which evolve gradually and upwards, ASEM was launched at the highest level in order to jump-start the process.

Although the main agenda for ASEM has been economic, ASEM can only succeed in the long-run if it is more than just a forum for economic cooperation. Hence, our leaders agreed that ASEM should be a multi-faceted and broad-based dialogue covering the whole spectrum of activities including political, economic, cultural, educational and other areas. ASEM must strengthen the political dialogue between the two regions on the basis of equality and mutual respect. People-to-people contacts are also important in order to build human bridges between our two peoples and societies.

ASEM also provides an opportunity for Asia and Europe to cooperate with each other at the global level. Asia and Europe can work together to enhance global peace and stability by cooperating in such international organisations as the UN, WTO, IMF and the World Bank.

When we start our discussion tomorrow morning, we will have many important missions to accomplish. We will need to take stock of overall progress since the Bangkok Leaders' Meeting. We will have to prepare for ASEM II which the UK will host in 1998. There is a lot to review. Ten ASEM-related meetings have already taken place since March 1996. Cooperation has been forged in many areas. Tomorrow, we will launch the Asia-Europe Foundation. When I looked at the 1997 calendar, I noticed that already 15 ASEM events have been scheduled, including two more ministerial-level meetings of Finance and Economic Ministers.

Yet, despite this rapid progress, we should remember that ASEM is still in the budding stage. If we become complacent, the initial interest shown in ASEM could easily wither away. We must therefore nurture the bud until it blossoms. On that note, please rise and join me in a toast to the future of ASEM.

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