Asian Ministers agree to promote co-operation and dialogue
"Currently, multilateral dialogues and co-operation in various forms are very active in Asia, which helps to enhance the region's stability and development", said Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan. Foreign Ministers and ministerial-level officials from 17 Asian countries participated in a two-day first-ever pan-continental meeting in Cha-am, 170km south of Bangkok, agreeing to promote more dialogue and co-operation for regional stability and prosperity. Bahrain, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Japan, South Korea, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Pakistan and Qatar were represented. The Asian Co-operation Dialogue (ACD) meeting identified a wide range of areas of co-operation, according to Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai. These include "poverty alleviation, human resources development, bridging the 'digital divide', science and technology, promotion of Asian culture and tourism, and development of the small and medium-sized enterprises". Mr Surakiart said the Ministers felt that the core of the ACD is its "dialogue" component. They agreed that participation in the ACD should be on an inclusive basis and be open to all Asian countries interested in it. He also said that the Asian Ministers believe that the ACD initiative can serve as a "missing link" to bring together all existing regional and sub- regional groupings in Asia, such as the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Plus Three (China, Japan and South Korea) and the Asia- Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC). The major focus of the ACD is economic co-operation while political issues and bilateral conflicts are to be largely avoided at the forum. However, the ACD will try to create a co-operative atmosphere in which it is easier to solve the conflicts, Mr Surakiart said. The Thai Prime Minister, who masterminded the ACD idea, said that he hoped all 17 countries would continue the pan-regional process which would eventually enhance Asia's collective bargaining power in the international economic arena. The next ACD meeting is scheduled for June 2003 in Thailand.