Speechs in the year
Tarikh/Date 	: 	19/07/91 

    On  behalf of the Government and the people of Malaysia
I bid you 'Selamat Datang' to  Kuala  Lumpur  for  the  24th
ASEAN  Ministerial Meeting.   Malaysia is indeed honoured to
host this annual event again after six years.   I hope  your
deliberations  will result in new consensus and achievements
that will further strengthen our association.
2.   I would also like to extend a  warm  welcome  to  their
Excellencies  the  Deputy Prime Minister of the Soviet Union
and the Foreign Minister of the People's Republic  of  China
who  are  attending  the  ASEAN  Ministerial Meeting for the
first time.  We are indeed delighted to have both of you  as
Malaysia's  honoured guests.   Your presence at this meeting
is indeed a clear reflection of the importance you attach to
ASEAN as a regional association.   Now that  ASEAN  and  the
Soviet  Union as well as ASEAN and China have decided to sit
together in conference, the ideological barriers between  us
have  been  overcome.   There is, however, the psychological
barrier to cross, so  let  us  work  together  towards  more
fruitful  relations  between us in the interest of peace and
security in the Asia-Pacific region.
3.   We meet here at a momentous time in the history of  the
world  in  which events at the closing years of this century
will rewrite the equation of political and economic  balance
in  the  emerging  new world order.   No other period during
this century holds such promise of reconciliation and  coop-
eration,  for  with the end of the Cold War the age of East-
West division has ended.   Unfortunately  new  uncertainties
have  arisen which threaten to erode the open global trading
4.   While we applaud the reduction  in  East-West  tensions
and the dramatic speed at which the socialist countries have
opted  for democracy and the free enterprise system, we view
with disquiet and growing concern the trade disputes between
the economic super-powers -- the United  States,  Japan  and
the  European Community.  Another political and economic re-
ality of  the  world  today  is  the  trend  towards  closed
regionalism.   Managed trade, bilateralism and trading based
on reciprocity endanger the open multilateral  trading  sys-
tem, and consequently the growth of world trade.
5.   The  stalemate of the Uruguay Round, the growing compe-
tition for market access and new adverse trade practices are
ominous signs that discriminative economics and exclusionary
trading policies will characterise the relations between the
groupings of the developed world as well as between the  de-
veloped and the developing world.
6.   The  economies of ASEAN and the many developing nations
which are so dependent upon  the  open  trading  system  are
threatened  by the new waves of protectionism.  It is to de-
fend the open multilateral trading system that the formation
of an East Asia Economic Group  (EAEG)  has  been  proposed.
The  EAEG mirrors our basic belief in close consultation and
cooperation between regional countries for the common  good.
It also reflects ASEAN's concern over the spread of regional
trading  blocs  and  constitutes  a  realistic  approach  to
counter the adversarial and protectionistic  stance  adopted
by  some  countries and economic groups which is putting the
multilateral trading system in jeopardy.
7.   Let me stress that the EAEG is not a trade bloc but the
concept is that of a  loose  consultative  forum  comprising
countries  in  East  Asia.   The EAEG will provide ASEAN and
other East Asian countries the leverage and  a  platform  to
act  in  concert and speak with one voice with regard to any
trade problems or trade-related issues that  affect  us  di-
rectly  or indirectly.  It will not work to restrict or con-
strict trade.  On the contrary, its imperatives will be  the
defence  and maintenance of free trade and expansion of eco-
nomic relations between regional countries as well  as  with
those outside the region.
8.   The ASEAN experiences have shown that when countries in
a  region  consult and cooperate, their chances of stability
and success are greater.  It is no accident that  the  ASEAN
countries have such good records of economic growth and pol-
itical stability.  Clearly an extension of such consultation
and cooperation to encompass the countries of East Asia will
have  the  same  effect.    Not only will the Zone of Peace,
Freedom and Neutrality (ZOPFAN) be served but by helping the
weaker economies of East Asia to grow, intra-regional  trade
will grow and the problems of economic migration resolved.
9.   ASEAN  and the other East Asian countries, whether eco-
nomically strong or weak, need  an  anchor  to  weather  and
withstand  the  adverse  trade  winds which are blowing.   A
strong and united ASEAN,  politically  as  well  as  econom-
ically,  can  bring the EAEG into shape and make it work for
the positive benefit of all.  The EAEG would be ASEAN's con-
tribution to the maintenance of an open global trading  sys-
10.  The  West  tells  us  that democratic freedom and human
rights are fundamental for the achievement of  economic  and
social  development.  We in ASEAN never disputed that democ-
racy for the people and opportunity for  the  individual  to
develop his or her own greatest potentials are indeed impor-
tant  principles.   We disagree, however, that democracy has
only one definition or that  political  systems  qualify  as
democratic  only  when they measure up to certain particular
yard-sticks.   Similarly, the norms  and  precepts  for  the
observance  of human rights vary from society to society and
from one period to another within the same society.
11.  Therefore, when the issue of human rights are linked to
trade, investment and finance we cannot  but  view  them  as
added conditionalities and protectionism by other means.  We
question whether the motivations have not in fact been poli-
tical  and  self-serving.   Malaysia now faces a petition by
the International  Labour  Rights,  Education  and  Research
Funds  (ILRERF)  to  withdraw our trade privileges under the
United States GSP.  They say Malaysia has violated  workers'
rights  and  freedoms.    This  is not the first of such pe-
titions and will not be the last.   The American  Federation
of  Labour  -- Congress of Industrial Organisation (AFL-CIO)
mounted   similar   petitions   before.      These    labour
organisations  may  seem to be concerned with the welfare of
our workers but should their petitions result in  the  with-
drawal  of  GSP privileges, the net result will be to reduce
investments in our country and create unemployment among the
workers.  We should recognise their actions  for  what  they
really are.
12.  Governments in developing countries constantly face the
problem  of  securing a fine balance between the need to en-
sure national economic development and the kind of  individ-
ual   and   group   disruptive   activities  which  tend  to
destabilise society and inhibit growth.  Nobody can claim to
have the monopoly of wisdom to determine what is  right  and
proper   for  all  countries  and  peoples.    It  would  be
condescending, to say the least, and suspect for the West to
preach human rights to us in the East.
13.  In the ASEAN experience, we have learnt  that  both  at
the national and regional levels, peace and security, democ-
racy  and  freedom  as  well  as  stability are possible and
sustainable only when the people are free from economic  de-
privation  and  have a stake in the national life.  Rightly,
ASEAN countries have placed a high premium on political sta-
bility by managing a balance between the rights of the indi-
vidual and the needs of the society as a whole.    This  has
enabled  the  ASEAN  countries  to make great strides in the
socio-economic advancement of their peoples.   It  has  also
enhanced  the  resilience  of  individual  countries and the
ASEAN region as a whole.  However, ASEAN needs to do more.
14.  ASEAN is 24 years old  this  year.    It  is  cohesive,
united  by  shared  geography,  common  goals  and  economic
dynamism.  It is today much envied by many.  Its success  in
providing  a  climate of peace and stability has enabled its
member states to concentrate on  economic  development,  re-
sulting  in our economies being among the fastest growing in
the Asia- Pacific region.   We achieved  a  growth  rate  of
about 8 per cent in 1990,  a record that we are all proud of
and must strive to maintain, if not to improve.
15.  However, we cannot be content with the present level of
ASEAN  cooperation:  ASEAN  has  a  greater  role to play in
international relations and in  promoting  intra-ASEAN  eco-
nomic  cooperation.  ASEAN must proceed to a higher plane of
cooperation, collective action and self-reliance in order to
have an effective voice in international, inter-regional and
multilateral fora.
16.  It is only a strong and united ASEAN  which  can  exert
its  collective  weight  and  voice  to ensure that justice,
fair-play and even-handedness continue  to  be  the  guiding
principles in the construction of the new international pol-
itical  and  economic order.  It is only a strong and united
ASEAN which can contribute towards shaping that new order.
17.  While regional peace and security are essential precon-
ditions for our economic growth, the new world  order  which
we  should  strive for is not only one that is free from the
threat of war but it should also be a world free  from  pov-
erty, hunger and diseases as well as an order which promotes
equal  economic  opportunity and easy access to modern tech-
nology for all countries and peoples.   And, most  important
of  all,  it  should  be a world order which recognises that
countries and peoples can and must be  allowed  to  maximise
their  national political, economic and social potentials in
ways compatible with their historical, cultural and national
18.  It is from a strong ASEAN base that we should  approach
the  question  of  peace and security of our immediate wider
environment in the Asia-Pacific region.   ASEAN has  already
made  its  mark  in terms of geo-politics.  The relevance of
ASEAN for our regional existence as well as in international
affairs has been proven beyond doubt.  It is equally  impor-
tant  that  we  should  make ASEAN relevant in terms of geo-
strategy.  A new strategic environment is clearly developing
in the Asia-Pacific region following the effective ending of
super-power rivalry in the area, but the shape of new things
to come is yet unclear.  This is for the ASEAN countries  to
study  and assess together so that an effective and positive
ASEAN contribution to peace and security in the Asia Pacific
region can be made.
19.  In Southeast Asia itself, it is time for ASEAN to  con-
sider  how  the  non-ASEAN  states  of the region can now be
brought into the regional mainstream.   The ZOPFAN  Declara-
tion  of  1971  was  an acceptance on the part of all member
states of  ASEAN  of  certain  basic  principles  of  intra-
regional relations.  The Declaration also provided the guid-
ing principles for extra-regional interstate relations.  The
Treaty  of Amity and Cooperation of 1976 elaborated on these
principles and invited acceptance of them by others  in  the
region.   Regionalism in Southeast Asia has to be brought to
a higher plane from the process of communication and consul-
tation to that of conscious  and  organised  interdependence
between all the regional states.  Just as ASEAN provides for
politico-economic  interdependence,  I  believe the relevant
elements of ZOPFAN and the Treaty of Amity  and  Cooperation
can  provide  the structured politico-security framework for
that organised interdependence between all  Southeast  Asian
20.  A  rapid pace of economic development requires an envi-
ronment of peace and security.  For so long as the Cambodian
problem remains unresolved, it will continue to  affect  the
peace  and security of the region.  Much honest efforts have
been made to find a durable solution.  Urgent matters on the
international economic agenda requires our  full  attention.
A Cambodia continuing to be at war will not only mean unend-
ing  misery and suffering for its people but also affect the
progress of the region.
21.  At a time when regionalism is beginning to  assume  new
importance  in international economic affairs, we cannot af-
ford to have the continuing division and the  separation  of
the Indochina countries from the rest of South East Asia.  A
Cambodia mired in perpetual turmoil while the other parts of
the  region  and  the  rest of the world passes them by is a
possible scenario, but we wish to prevent that from  happen-
ing.  However, in order to enable them to integrate into the
regional  life, Cambodians must first find peace among them-
selves.  We are therefore much encouraged by  the  unanimous
election of His Royal Highness Prince Sihanouk as the Presi-
dent  of the Supreme National Council.  We are confident un-
der his wise leadership, the Cambodian parties would be able
to achieve national reconciliation and reach agreement of  a
comprehensive political settlement.
22.  There  is  no  doubt  that in the area of political and
diplomatic cooperation ASEAN has made an  international  im-
pact.    But  our performance on the economic front requires
substantial upgrading.  For more than ten years now, ASEAN's
collective energy has been concentrated on  finding  a  sol-
ution to the Cambodian problem.  While we should continue to
persevere  until  a  solution is found, it is timely to give
proper attention to economic matters.   We need  to  refocus
our  economic  cooperation,  both  internal and external, on
those crucial areas that really matter.  There must  be  new
initiatives  and  ideas  to step up economic cooperation, to
give our economic front sufficient leverage, as well  as  to
consolidate and upgrade our present cooperation.
23.  While ASEAN should not be a trading bloc and each ASEAN
country  must  remain  free to trade with other nations, in-
creasing steps should be taken to  increase  regional  inte-
gration.  We should be bold enough to examine specific areas
where  there can be greater regional integration, as for in-
stance intra-regional trade.
24.  ASEAN's experience  in  the  last  world-wide  economic
slowdown  of 1985-1987 period was a painful one.  But it was
a lesson well learnt.  It is imperative that ASEAN pools its
resources and collectively create a conducive economic  cli-
mate  in  the  region  for renewed and enhanced growth.   An
ASEAN supported by economic strength will  have  a  stronger
voice  in  international negotiations for fairer trade terms
with the developed countries.
25.  To-date our volume of intra-regional trade and  invest-
ments  remains  small.   The volume of intra-ASEAN trade re-
mains at a low 20 per cent of ASEAN's total trade despite an
increase in the number of products under the ASEAN Preferen-
tial Trading Arrangement.    We  cannot  continue  with  the
piece-meal approach to trade liberalisation among ourselves.
I  support,  therefore,  the  recent  proposal made by Prime
Minister Anand of Thailand that we work towards  the  estab-
lishment of an ASEAN Free Trade Area sometime by the turn of
the century.
26.  I  see  merit  in establishing an ASEAN Free Trade Area
although there are many structural factors that inhibit  our
economic  integration,  such as our different levels of eco-
nomic development, our competing economies, our lack of  in-
dustrial   complementation   and  our  frequently  divergent
perceptions of short and long-term benefits both for the in-
dividual nation and the region.  I appreciate that these are
hard issues and harder still to make the choices.  But  make
them  we  must  if ASEAN wishes to be counted as an economic
force in her own right.
27.  Our economies, having registered some  of  the  fastest
growth  rates  in  the Asia-Pacific region, will continue to
grow, perhaps at a slower rate in view of the poor  interna-
tional  economic  climate.   The future of the international
trading system may be uncertain, but we  are  quite  certain
that   the  ASEAN  economies  will  grow  from  strength  to
strength.  Therefore, the factors which inhibit  integration
will  no  longer  be  so  formidable or even relevant by the
first quarter of the 21st century.   By then,  the  economic
disparity  between  ASEAN  member  states will have narrowed
considerably, external and internal markets for  ASEAN  pro-
ducts would have expanded thus making the problem of compet-
ing economies less relevant.
28.  Much  as  we need vision and foresight to chart the di-
rection for ASEAN's future growth, we need more the  courage
and  collective  will of all to set our objectives on course
and the achievement of these objectives within a time frame.
We should set our minds to achieve what is, after all, quite
29.  As a start and for which we are already  doing,  albeit
not  in the pace that we should, there is the urgent need to
liberalise our  trade  substantially  within  the  grouping.
Trade  liberalisation will not only bring our economic coop-
eration to a higher plane, it will also reinforce our  trade
links   with   other  countries  and  regions.    We  should
strengthen our  political  cooperation  by  economic  means.
There  is  much  room  to  increase trade flows, to create a
larger market for complementary industrial ventures, to  en-
courage greater private sector participation and to widen as
well  as  give  more  impetus to ASEAN industrial joint ven-
30.  Just as we ask our trading partners to  heed  our  call
for  a  fairer  and equitable trade terms, we have to demon-
strate positive efforts of our own.  I am quite certain that
a liberalised  ASEAN  trading  area  will  be  a  source  of
strength  for  us in the wider multilateral trading environ-
31.  When we advocate a more economically integrated  ASEAN,
no  one should mistake it as an idea to make ASEAN a trading
bloc.  Far from it.  The outward dependence and  orientation
of  our  economies  make  it  impossible  for us to be self-
contained or inward-looking.  It would be illogical  for  us
to abandon the multilateral trading system under which ASEAN
economies have prospered.  Consistent with our dependence on
the  open  international trading system and multilateralism,
ASEAN cannot but defend and seek to preserve them.
32.  Much has been said about the need to revamp  the  ASEAN
Secretariat.    There  is  now  consensus to restructure and
strengthen  the  Secretariat  to  enable  it  to   step   up
programmes for intra-regional as well as extra-regional eco-
nomic  cooperation.    But  consensus must readily be turned
into reality.  It is in ASEAN's interest to  be  innovative,
to improve its coordination and to accelerate the process of
decision-making in the light of rapid changes in global eco-
nomic  conditions.   A strong and effective Secretariat is a
necessity to bring about changes in the methods and increase
in the substance of ASEAN economic cooperation.   Your  task
is  to  determine how best the ASEAN institutional machinery
and in particular the ASEAN Secretariat is  to  be  improved
bearing  in  mind the requirements of the Association in the
33.  A strong and effective ASEAN Secretariat will pave  the
way  towards  making ASEAN more economically integrated.  It
is therefore essential that we  work  towards  making  ASEAN
more  viable  and  relevant  in  the next century.   It will
engender self-reliance and resilience, enabling ASEAN econo-
mies to sustain economic dynamism and to withstand  economic
34.  With  the  conviction  that  we  are setting out on the
right course and with hope that you will conclude  your  de-
liberations  on these pressing issues with speed and consen-
sus, I now have great pleasure  to  declare  open  the  24th
ASEAN Ministerial Meeting.
     Thank you.