|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Intervention at ASEAN Post-Ministerial Conference
Singapore, July 26, 1999
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
Fellow ministers, distinguished colleagues: it is a great pleasure for me to join you as the representative of the United States. And let me add a word of welcome to ASEAN's newest member, Cambodia.
The ASEAN Post-Ministerial Conference brings together as diverse a group of nations as any regional body anywhere. But there should be no doubt that the nations represented here today form a true community of interest.
We share a fundamental interest in Asia's economic health; in fostering growth that lifts the lives of all the region's people; and in maintaining Asia-Pacific leadership in the drive for a more open, stable and dynamic global economy.
We have an equally profound interest in the region's security; in ensuring peace among nations; and in preventing the destabilizing spread of weapons of mass destruction.
And we have a common interest in regional cooperation -- in encouraging nations to pull together to combat challenges none could defeat alone.
In each of these areas, the United States is pleased to work with the states of the region to support ASEAN initiatives and to make progress toward our shared goals.
The Economy: From Crisis to Recovery.
In the economic arena, I think we would all agree that the picture is brighter than it was a year ago. The primary credit for that improvement is due to the region's governments, which moved with determination not only to stabilize finances, but also to protect school enrollments and health expenditures. And to families who responded to hard times by seizing new opportunities, such as production of farm products for export or to displace imports.
The United States has done its part by joining forces with the World Bank and the IMF to provide the financing needed to support reform and to address basic humanitarian needs. And perhaps most importantly, we kept our growing markets open to Asian exports, making it easier for the region's industries to get back on their feet.
Now that the worst of the crisis appears past, there is renewed optimism in the region. Investment is returning. Family spending is rising. Production is increasing. New jobs are being created. And in some countries, poverty is again declining.
With many of the region's economies now showing signs of recovery, it would be tempting to return to business as usual. But the work of reform is not complete. Governments and businesses across the Pacific, including my own, must stay focused on bank reform and corporate restructuring; on increasing the quality and transparency of financial regulation; on building stronger capital markets; on promoting broad-based growth, reducing unemployment and meeting basic human needs; and on supporting countries that have taken tough decisions for reform.
The challenge is to stay the course, and make sure the region reaps lasting benefits from the difficult changes it has already endured. This will require persistence not just from the nations directly affected, but also from their partners in Asia and around the world.
It is especially important that growth-oriented policies be pursued by major economies. While we are pleased that the strong U.S. economy continues to aid recovery in the region, we would like to see other engines propelling regional and global prosperity. Japan has an immense role to play, and we support Tokyo's efforts to restore domestic demand-led growth.
In addition, the United States is bringing programs together under the Accelerating Economic Recovery in Asia Initiative (AERA) to help Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines strengthen their banking, legal and regulatory frameworks, and train workers in new skills. We are pleased that American businesses are actively assisting these efforts.
We also want to work with ASEAN and its members to foster public-private partnerships that support agriculture, sustainable forestry, rural development and poverty eradication.
And when APEC Leaders meet this September, we hope that ASEAN nations will take the lead in building momentum for the WTO Ministerial in Seattle, endorsing a new trade round, and moving forward on the Accelerated Tariff Liberalization package as well as APEC's own trade agenda. A strong and growing global economy, with increasing possibilities for trade, is the best guarantee of prosperity and stability in Southeast Asia.
On a related matter, the United States will continue to work for the entry of China into the WTO on commercially viable terms.
ASEAN's Hanoi Plan of Action will make an important contribution toward this goal by promoting transparency, open markets and economic integration. The United States welcomes the Plan and looks forward to supporting its implementation.
We also welcome the involvement of ASEAN nations, with others in the international community, in putting forward and refining ideas on strengthening the global financial architecture.
Democracy and the Rule of Law.
Of course, not all the keys to a prosperous future are economic in nature.
We have learned very clearly in recent years that sustainable economic growth is best built on a foundation of open and accountable democratic institutions and the rule of law.
Accordingly, we have observed with hope and respect the progress Indonesia has made in conducting free and fair elections, and broadening political participation. And we have strongly supported Thailand as it responded to financial difficulties while bolstering its commitment to democratic values.
At the same time, we have been disappointed by the continued failure by authorities in Burma to open a meaningful dialogue with its democratic opposition and other representative groups. Just as democracy fosters prosperity, so repression in Burma has generated economic disaster.
One welcome outgrowth of the financial crisis has been a sharper focus regionally and around the world on the economic, social and political costs of cronyism and corruption. To one degree or another, these plagues are a problem in every country. Vice-President Al Gore's 1998 Anti-Corruption Conference provided a welcome opportunity for nations around the world, including those in Southeast Asia, to share information and discuss strategies for responding to this challenge. It is vital that we continue to work together to create economic and political structures that reward enterprise and merit, not payoffs and accidents of birth.
Our response to transnational threats is an important agenda item for this Post-Ministerial Conference. This is appropriate because our ability to make progress in addressing such problems is a key to the standard of living and quality of life in each of our societies.
ASEAN nations are making commendable headway in forging common responses to these difficult issues. The United States stands ready to support your efforts. We believe we can best contribute, in our capacity as an ASEAN dialogue partner, to two areas of the Hanoi Action Plan -- environmental protection and transnational crime.
The haze of pollution which too often blights parts of Southeast Asia reminds us that individual actions can have serious generalized consequences. Yet we have tremendous power, when we act collectively, to reverse environmental degradation and thereby improve individual lives.
Through our East Asia and Pacific Environmental Initiative, we are supporting 21 projects this year. They will help manage forest and coastal resources and land use; study coral bleaching and conserve biodiversity. By introducing less wasteful forest harvesting practices and combating destructive fishing, these projects serve economic as well as environmental ends. By enlarging protected areas, saving endangered species, and promoting scientific research, they help ensure that our natural resources will endure for generations to come.
And as we work on each of these important problems, we must not forget another, overriding threat -- global climate change. For as the emission of greenhouse gases continues to rise, we invite more extreme weather conditions, with potentially harmful effects on coastal and agricultural economies. The United States and other industrialized nations have a responsibility to lead in combating global climate change, and are committed to doing so. But if the major emerging economies do not accept their own responsibility, we will never begin to bring this problem under control.
This year, Japan and the United States will provide two important opportunities for discussing issues related to global climate change. A regional workshop for Southeast Asian nations will be held August 30-31 in Bali, and in December a conference in Manila will focus on effective implementation of national action plans.
In the past year, the United States has stepped up its partnership with ASEAN in the fight against transnational crime. We worked with Thailand to open the International Law Enforcement Academy in Bangkok, which provides high-quality training while helping to build networks among the region's law enforcement officials.
We are also cooperating with ASEAN countries and the United Nations to curb trafficking in narcotics and other illicit substances. We welcome the Declaration for a Drug Free ASEAN, and will support the region's efforts to meet that goal. To do so, we should establish concrete counternarcotics objectives, building on the results of the January 1999 meeting on regional solutions to the narcotics problem co-hosted by Japan and the United Nations Drug Control Program.
In addition, with partners in ASEAN and elsewhere, the United States has undertaken a major diplomatic and law enforcement effort against trafficking in women and children.
Such trafficking is a global menace and is everyone's problem. An estimated 40,000 to 50,000 people are trafficked annually into my own country, where we are working to shut down traffickers' networks and protect their victims. In Asia, it is believed that 250,000 human beings or more are bought and sold each year. This figure represents a quarter of a million private tragedies, as well as dirty profits for international criminals, and a threat to public health.
Our strategy must be broad enough to educate the public, assist the victims, protect the vulnerable and apprehend the perpetrators. And our goal must be to mobilize people everywhere, so that trafficking in human beings is met by a stop sign visible around the Equator and from pole to pole.
The United States is already working with several ASEAN members to combat trafficking, by training law enforcement officials, promoting NGO efforts at prevention and supporting a project to return and reintegrate victims of trafficking in the Mekong Delta.
Early next year, the United States and the Philippines will co-host a workshop to consider how the region can better combat this nefarious trade.
In addition to these areas, the United States would like to do more with ASEAN members to reduce the threat posed by HIV/AIDS and other forms of infectious disease. These plagues continue to devastate communities, strain health care systems, and sap the energy and productivity of emerging economies.
We know that with national leadership, international assistance, and local interventions the tide can be turned. In some countries, aggressive policies have begun to reverse the effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. But in others, the tide has not crested -- and the central challenge of prevention has not been fully addressed. The United States and Japan have worked together to help governments implement effective HIV/AIDS responses, and to explore and promote prevention and treatment regimes. The U.S.-Japan Common Agenda also includes efforts to eradicate polio in the region and worldwide by the end of next year.
We have assembled here in Singapore because we have important common interests in all these areas -- and because we believe that together we can, and should, do more to promote those interests. And as we work together, we will strengthen the confidence and partnership among our nations, and brighten the prospects for our security, our economies, and our citizens' daily lives.
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