ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Road Trip to Enhance Regional Connectivity and to Strengthen ASEAN-China Relations



Kunming—ASEAN Foreign Ministers and delegations from ten ASEAN member countries and ASEAN Secretary-General have completed ‘the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Road Trip to China on R3A’ program on Monday, 24 January 2011. The trip was made by bus along the highway spanning from Chiang Rai, Thailand, to China. The program was joined by the Foreign Ministers from Thailand, Singapore, Laos and Myanmar, Deputy Prime Minister of Cambodia, Second Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Brunei Darussalam, Vice-Minister of Malaysia and the Philippines, SOM Leader of Vietnam and ASEAN Secretary-General. Indonesian delegation was led by the Director of Dialogue Partners and Inter-Regional Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia.


The Ministers and delegates departed from Chiang Rai at 6 AM, took the course along R3A to Lao PDR, across the Mekong river, passed through Lao PDR-China border, took a flight from Jinhong, and finally reached Kunming at 11 PM. This long and strenuous trip was made as a part of ASEAN’s activities aimed at instituting the awareness on the importance of regional connectivity. The infrastructure projects, particularly in completing the highway connecting ASEAN and China via land is one of the items stipulated in the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity adopted by Heads of ASEAN countries.


On the following day (25/01/2011), the delegations and the Foreign Minister of China, Yang Jiechi, launched the ASEAN-China Friendship and Exchange Year in Kunming, the capital city of Yunnan Province. The launching was in conjunction with the 20th anniversary of ASEAN-China dialogue relations and is meant to further deepen and widen the partnership for peace and prosperity between the two sides. The development of land connectivity is ASEAN’s strategic and potential project to increase the flow of goods, services, and people as an effort to foster the economic advancement in the region.


After the launching, ASEAN Foreign Ministers and delegations held an exchange of views with the Chinese Foreign Minister on issues of common interests, such as on connectivity, East Asia Cooperation, non-traditional security, food security, ACFTA, Social and Cultural cooperation, and EAS.


ASEAN and China shared the view that their strong and beneficial cooperation has provided the foundation for the partnership. Both also acknowledged the growing role of ASEAN and China in the region as well as in the international stage and hence they concurred to enhance dialogue, to support each other on issues of common interests and to step up their commitment to take bigger responsibility in maintaining the regional and global peace, stability and prosperity.


The meeting has also come up with a year-round working plan for the 20th year commemorative activities with prioritized programs in social, cultural as well as people-to-people interactions. This year will see more exchanges of arts troupes, media, youth, students and scholars, medical experts, complementing the intensive communications between the officials of all levels. Receptions for the commemoration will be organized respectively in Beijing and Jakarta in July 2011.


In the efforts to beef up the regional competitiveness and productivity, both ASEAN and China are aware that connectivity, both intra and inter-regions, is vital and needs to be developed without delay. Connectivity is to be promoted in ICT and physical infrastructures referring to the development of transportation to ensure freer flow of goods and people. While the undergoing development is mainly on land connectivity, both envisioned more complete and comprehensive links, covering all modes of transportations that include sea transportation for maritime connectivity, accomplishing ‘the missing links’ of highways and railways, and other initiatives in the context of sub-regional cooperation, including GMS, BIMP-EAGA, and IMT-GT frameworks.


In the meantime, to boost trade and investment, especially to achieve the target of bilateral trade value of US$500 billion in 2015, ASEAN and China will continue to promote the effective implementation of ACFTA, to sustain the financial swap arrangement, and to improve measures and policies in free trade facilitation.


Social and cultural exchanges will be further deepened and enhanced, covering collaboration in eradicating communicable diseases, natural disaster management, and tourism industry improvement. ASEAN and China expect to achieve target of 50 million tourist arrivals in 2015.


Cooperation in non-traditional security issues including cyber crimes, money laundering, and terrorism is also highlighted during the talks. Security-wise, both ASEAN and China see eye-to-eye in the maintenance of regional and global peace and stability and in increasing their constructive roles in multilateral platforms, such as in the UN and G20.


During the meeting, Indonesia has also made use of the occasion to push forward the signing of ASEAN Plus Three Emergency Rice Reserve (APTERR), which will be benefitting the wide community in the region. APTERR is an ASEAN Plus Three (China, Japan, RoK) mechanism with the objective of providing food supply should any member country(s) are confronted with food crisis.