Malaysia's ASEAN theme receives encouraging response

Malaysia's ASEAN theme receives encouraging response

Malaysia's explanation on why it chose a people-centred ASEAN as its theme when assuming the chair of the regional body next year has received encouraging response from the other members of the grouping.

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said Malaysia was also calling on ASEAN to draw up a 10-year post-integration plan for the region and conduct a mid-term review to ensure that its vision remained relevant to changing times.

"I explained why we chose the theme of a people-centred ASEAN when we are the chair next year, and it appears to have received an encouraging response," Najib told Malaysian reporters here last night.

The Prime Minister had earlier attended the opening of the 25th ASEAN Summit followed by the ASEAN Summit Plenary Session with the leaders of the other nine member countries.

"Acceptance by the people must be the basis of whatever we do and they must be able to feel the significance and relevance of ASEAN and what benefits they can get from it, for example the creation of an ASEAN Community," said Najib.

Najib said all ASEAN leaders emphasised their commitment to achieve their joint vision to usher the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by the end of 2015.

The AEC is one of three pillars in the plan to create an integrated ASEAN Community, the other being political-security and socio-cultural.

The Prime Minister said that while ASEAN leaders noted the progress in tariff reductions called for under the AEC, the regional body should also deal with non-tariff barriers such as delays in Customs approval and excessive conditions imposed on trade.

ASEAN also needed to avoid narrow nationalism, which Najib said could go against the spirit of an ASEAN Community.

On the South China Sea maritime border disputes between several ASEAN member countries as well as China, Najib said ASEAN leaders discussed measures to ensure that territorial claims must be resolved through peaceful negotiations.

"ASEAN's stand is also based on the Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea that we have in place, and which we need to translate into the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea that is being drawn up," Najib added.

Asked whether a joint communique on the issue would be issued today, Najib said: "It may be included in the chairman's statement, but let's wait for the release."

Najib and other ASEAN leaders also took part in several meetings with ASEAN dialogue partners including the United Nations.

The Prime Minister said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed the international body's recognition of Malaysia's role in helping to broker peace in the southern Philippines.

Najib also held his first bilateral meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during which the Malaysian leader expressed his hope that Malaysian companies would be considered in India's plans to build affordable housing.

India is seeking wider recognition from Malaysia for medical degrees from a larger number of its colleges.

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