27 Nov 2002



Your Excellency Dr Surakiart Sathirathai
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand
Distinguished Delegates
Ladies and Gentlemen

I am very pleased to welcome my good friend Dr Surakiart and his delegation to the 5th Co-ordinating Meeting of the Thailand-Singapore Civil Service Exchange Programme (CSEP). Your presence here today, together with a high-level delegation of senior officials from various Thai Government departments, bears strong testimony to the strength of our bilateral ties.

Terrorism and regional developments

When we met in Bangkok last year, the world had just awoken to the challenges posed by international terrorism following the tragic events of September 11. As the October bomb attack in Bali has shown, the global war against terrorism is far from over. Countries in our region will have to continue their co-operative efforts to play our part in combating this scourge.
But there have also been positive developments and good news. The ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh was certainly a bright spot, in particular the signing of the ASEAN-China FTA Framework Agreement and the announcement of the ASEAN-Japan Closer Economic Partnership. Coupled with the first ever ASEAN-India Summit, these events signal ASEAN's commitment to trade liberalisation and to expand its external linkages. More importantly, it demonstrates that ASEAN is not distracted or inward looking. Given the spectre of terrorism and the uncertainties over Iraq, it is now even more critical that ASEAN pulls together more cohesively and deepens its economic integration. In this context, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong suggested that ASEAN should strive towards an Economic Community to provide direction and an end-point for ASEAN's many economic integration initiatives. This would enhance investor confidence in ASEAN.

Ladies and Gentlemen

Within ASEAN, Thailand and Singapore have enjoyed close and long-standing co-operation. Since the 1970s to more recent efforts to strengthen ASEAN after the 1997 economic crisis, Thailand and Singapore have worked closely together. We have been strong advocates of trade liberalisation and the acceleration of AFTA to increase ASEAN's competitiveness. We also share the view that the best way forward for ASEAN to stay relevant in a rapidly changing global environment is to push for greater regional and global engagement. By working more closely together, we can be confident that we
will achieve much more and further the momentum for other ASEAN countries to come on board when they are ready.

Our bilateral relations have certainly grown steadily in scope and depth. I am particularly encouraged by the progress achieved in the CSEP process. Since its inaugural meeting in 1998, the CSEP has played an important role in helping to promote closer contacts and foster better co-operation between the various Ministries and agencies from both countries, at the same time guided by the overall vision of the Singapore-Thailand Enhanced Partnership (STEP).

During the recent ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh, PM Thaksin mentioned to PM Goh that both our countries should do more and to use his words, "tango" together. I am happy to note that through the CSEP, we have already gone some way in realising this common vision. I want to congratulate both our Thai and Singapore officials from the various ministries and agencies who have worked tirelessly over the last five years to nurture CSEP. We have expanded the number and range of projects. More importantly, CSEP is about building lasting and durable relationships, not just institutionally, but also at the personal level between the officials of Thailand and Singapore. Through regular meetings and by working together in projects, CSEP has helped to engender better mutual understanding. As a further testimony of the close bilateral relationship, the Prime Ministers of both countries had earlier also agreed to the establishment of the Singapore-Thailand Enhanced Economic Relationship or ST! EER in February this year. I am confident that STEER will help leverage on the complementary strengths between Singapore and Thailand and further our bilateral economic cooperation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am confident that as we enter a new phase in CSEP, we will continue to build on the progress that has been made. I wish our officials success in all their future endeavors.

Thank you.

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