Countries slow to ratify shouldn't hold back Asean Charter
Jeremy Au Yong
Mon, Jan 21, 2008
The Straits Times

ASEAN grouping should consider taking an Asean-Minus-X approach to push through the Asean Charter, so nations slow to ratify the document will not hold others back.

Second Minister for Foreign Affairs Raymond Lim made this call in Parliament on Monday, when responding to questions on Asean's handling of the Myanmar issue.

He said: 'We should not and will not let the Myanmar issue slow down the integration of our region... Singapore has ratified the Asean Charter and we hope that the other Asean countries, including Myanmar, will do so expeditiously,' he said.

'Asean should not rule out amending the Charter so they can come into force under Asean-Minus-X principle should some countries be unable to ratify the Charter in time so that the rest of us are not held back.'

The Asean-Minus-X principle allows member countries that are ready to get into the game lead the way, with others that may take more time to meet the commitments joining later. However, getting the charter ratified within the one-year target set could prove to be tricky, with some countries indicating they would not do so until Myanmar resolves its problems.

But Myanmar aside, the Minister said the Asean Summit hosted by Singapore last November was a success.

'Overall, the Singapore Summit achieved its main outcomes. Although Myanmar was a major concern, it did not derail proceedings,' said Mr Lim, who was asked for the Government's assessment of the summit.

He pointed to the signing of the charter, the endorsement of the blueprint for the setting up of an Asean economic community and declarations on climate change as some of the triumphs of the meetings.

He added that the grouping also had 'productive summit meetings with its dialogue partners like China Japan Korea, India and the EU'.

Given the milestones already achieved in the country's short stint as chairman of Asean, Mr Lim added that Singapore is looking forward to the second half of its one-year term.

'We will continue to push Asean to implement important initiatives like the Asean Charter, strengthen cooperation in key areas like the environment and trans-border challenges, as well as deepen relations with its various partners,' he said.


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