Cambodia's Priorities for ASEAN 2012

Prime Minister Hun Sen delivered his opening address at the Cambodia Outlook Conference in Phnom Penh on 16 February 2012. 

Opening Address at the 2012 Cambodia Outlook Conference (A Partnership of CDRI and ANZ Royal Bank) “Cambodia’s Priorities for Inclusive growth, Regional Integration and ASEAN Leadership.”

By Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen, Prime Minister of Cambodia
Phnom Penh, February 16, 2012

Cambodia last held the Chair of ASEAN a decade ago, in 2002. As we assume this great honour and responsibility again in 2012, we do so in a very different world, in a very different region, and in a very different Cambodia. Overall, Cambodia and our region have been changed dramatically. Our Asian region is now at the centre of the global economy, with East Asia, and ASEAN at its core, the main driver of growth and economic prosperity. For instance, Cambodia experienced very high growth, which is a fundamental instrument for socio-economic development and poverty reduction, after the setback of the global financial crisis and economic downturn of 2008-9. This would result from sound macro-economic management.

As Cambodia assumes the Chair of ASEAN we are well placed to step up to meet the responsibilities of global and regional citizenship. We enthusiastically accept these responsibilities in both the chairing of ASEAN at a regional level, and in our quest to achieve a non-permanent seat on the Security Council of the United Nations at a global level.

The integration of Cambodia’s economy into our region will also be critical to our success. Cambodia’s strategic location in an increasingly integrated and ‘connected’ Greater Mekong Sub-region, in ASEAN and in our proximity to China, the world’s second largest economic power and the world’s largest market for agricultural surpluses is a major asset - for private sector development and investment, inclusive growth, socio-economic development and poverty reduction.

The Cambodian government has demonstrated its strong commitment to the realization of an ASEAN Economic Community by 2015. We have worked hard, through our maintenance of an open economy, and our compliance with WTO accession requirements and specific AEC requirements, to maximize our preparedness for AEC 2015. On the latest ‘AEC Scorecard’ Cambodia has achieved more than 70 per cent of the key deliverables required under the AEC, ranked third behind Singapore and Malaysia. We are currently also making progress in the computerization of cross-border trade and customs transactions to achieve further compliance but work still needs to be done in strengthening the institutional capacity of agencies responsible for the administration and good governance of cross-border trade, transport and people flows.

These efforts will better position Cambodia to reap the benefits of sub-regional and regional integration, while remaining an open economy seeking international opportunities for trade and investment both within and beyond our region. Within this view, as Chair of ASEAN we must lead by example and demonstrate, through our commitment to ASEAN Economic Community 2015 and deeper ASEAN and East Asian regional integration, that we accept both the opportunities and responsibilities that are involved, by showing that we have nothing to fear from openness and competition as we strengthen and diversity our economy and build our nation.

As we begin this year as ASEAN Chair may I express my congratulations and gratitude to the President of Indonesia and his team for their fine leadership of ASEAN in 2011. Much was achieved under their stewardship.

What is my vision for ASEAN and our priorities as Chair in 2012? Through our efforts this year, I would like to see an ASEAN that is stronger and empowered to work more effectively at both the regional and global levels, with a stronger commitment by its members, and better resources, with bigger roles for the ASEAN Secretary-General and the Secretariat as well as continuity between chairmanships. I believe ASEAN should be playing a more active role in the international issues and I will be stressing this message when I address the G20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico on behalf of ASEAN in June.

I want to ensure that we maximize the achievement of an ASEAN Economic Community in 2015 and associated political-security and socio-cultural community, making our theme of “ASEAN: One Community, One Destiny” a reality, and ensuring that the peoples of ASEAN, especially its younger generation, understand and appreciate the value of our unique approach to regionalism and regional integration, and the strength it brings us as an influential regional voice in a challenging global environment.

On specific priority issues for ASEAN, I want to ensure that, through our work together in 2012, we build our capacity to sustain growth and achieve greater prosperity, economic integration, connectivity, and competitiveness, through the fulfilment of the ASEAN Economic Community, and by promoting domestic sources of growth and deepening regional cooperation, particularly through the ASEAN+3 processes, while remaining open to regional and global economic opportunities.

I want to achieve a greater role for the private sector in ASEAN processes and policy making, and better utilisation of the benefits of ASEAN Free Trade Agreements and bilateral trade and cooperation relationships.
I want to strengthen ASEAN as an institution and its resources, through both intra-ASEAN cooperation, and through resource partnerships with our regional and international dialogues partners.

I want to see ASEAN deliver on the ASEAN Charter commitment to alleviate poverty and    narrow the development gap among between ASEAN and its LDCs (Cambodia, Lao PDR and Myanmar) through mutual assistance and     cooperation, as well as reinvigorating domestic demand and boosting intra-regional trade.

I want to utilise the ASEAN Regional Forum, ASEAN+3 and East Asian Summit processes to promote cooperation, peace and security in the region, to prevent conflicts and resolve tensions, and to respect and safeguard the interests of both the big and small nations of our region, while at the same time working together on nuclear non-proliferation, anti-terrorism, and the prevention of human trafficking.

I want to work with our ASEAN partners and others in our region to support our ASEAN member nation Myanmar to achieve its aspirations and assume its rightful role in ASEAN and our broader region.

Cambodia is particularly well placed to play this constructive and responsible leadership role in ASEAN at this time, and through our responsible regional and international citizenship, to give back some of what we have received in support from our regional neighbours and the international community over the past two decades. We have positive and cooperative relationships – economic, strategic and people to people, with our ASEAN neighbours, our broader East Asian neighbours, China, North and South Korea, and Japan, and with other major players in our region such as the United States and Australia. I believe with our commitment and hard work this year we will be able to use these good relationships to strengthen ASEAN and achieve its goals.

And finally, today I am pleased to announce that, as Chair of ASEAN, Cambodia will initiate and host an ASEAN Global Dialogue, to be held in late 2012 following the East Asia Summit. I plan to invite the Heads of the major multilateral financial and development organisations, including the IMF, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the United Nations and the WTO, to meet together to discuss how these agencies can work more effectively together with us in the ASEAN and East Asian region to pursue our shared goals of peace, stability, sustainable development and prosperity. As I said at the outset, in the past decade the world has changed, our region has changed, and Cambodia has changed. It is time for a new dialogue to better reflect and respond to the centrality of the East Asian region, with ASEAN at its core, in the global economy.

This is what I aspire to for Cambodia as we chair ASEAN in 2012. I look forward to working with my friends and colleagues in Cambodia, the nations of ASEAN, and its regional and global dialogue partners in achieving these aspirations.

Source: Cambodia New Vision Website: