International Conference: The Implications of the ASEAN Charter for East Asian Integration - Foundation Office Philippines
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Former President Fidel V. Ramos urged the fostering of regional unity in the ASEAN bloc and stressed the need for fast-tracking economic integration towards moving the integration process forward, during an international conference organized by the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) Policy Center and the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung last March 12, 2008.
Pres. Ramos, himself a member of the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) formed in 2005 to provide leaders of ASEAN member-states with broad policy recommendations towards the drafting of the ASEAN Charter, emphasized the central role of ASEAN in East Asian integration. Pres. Ramos further urged ASEAN members to reform its decision-making style; enhance the region’s competitiveness; increase intra-ASEAN trade; and most importantly, engage the people in the integration process.
The conference discussed various aspects and implications of the recently signed landmark ASEAN Charter on further East Asian integration and further focused on themes of the changing environments of Asian economic integration, as well as challenges and opportunities towards East Asian integration.
The landmark Charter, signed by ASEAN leaders during the 13th ASEAN Summit held in Singapore last November 20, 2007, provides the ASEAN with a legal identity, and outlines a rules-based governing and institutional framework for the members of the bloc, binding members to “strengthen democracy, enhance good governance and the rule of law, and to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms.” It lays the groundwork for transforming the intergovernmental bloc into an ASEAN community by 2015, providing blueprints for the formation of economic, political, and socio-cultural communities. The Charter remains subject to ratification until the upcoming ASEAN Bangkok Summit scheduled for December 2008.
The conference brought together various members of the diplomatic corps, the private business sector, think-tank groups, and members of government. Relevant issues, such as assessing the current competitiveness of ASEAN members and readiness for deeper regional integration in the wake of the emergence of China as a potential competitor for the regional bloc, as well as improving private sector participation in the regional integration process, were heavily discussed by both presenters and participants of the conference alike.
ASEAN continues to have a pivotal role in determining East Asian integration, owing to its strategic position in the region, as well as its role as a convenient forum for regional dialogue. Acting Secretary of Foreign affairs Hon. Franklin M. Ebdalin, in his welcome remarks, stressed that the “…ASEAN integration process is necessary if we are to consider that ASEAN forms the cornerstone of the emerging East Asia Community.” He expressed the DFA’s optimism about the ongoing progress on ASEAN integration, and reiterated the need for continued and deepened cooperation among member states.
Regional experts in respective fields included Mr. Bert Hofman, Country Director of the World Bank in the Philippines; Undersecretary Thomas Aquino from the Department of Trade and Industry; Dr. Ponciano Intal, Executive Director of the Angelo King Institute;
Amb. Rosario Manalo, Chairperson of the High-Level Task Force on the Drafting of the ASEAN Charter and current chair of the European Studies Program at the Ateneo de Manila University; Dr. Wilfrido Villacorta, former ASEAN Deputy Secretary-General;
Dr. Michael Clancy, Chairman of the Philippine Business Leaders Forum; Amb. Rodolfo Severino, former ASEAN Secretary-General and currently Head of the ASEAN Studies Center at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore (ISEAS); Dr. Denis Hew, Senior Fellow and Coordinator of the Regional Economic Studies Department at ISEAS; Dr. Hank Lim, Director of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs; and to highlight the conference, a keynote speech by former President Fidel V. Ramos.
The conference ended with a synthesis by Dr. Federico Macaranas, Executive Director of the AIM Policy Center, and with a surprise tribute to Former President Ramos who will be celebrating his 80th birthday on the 18th of March. Mr. Klaus Preschle led the toast for President Ramos.