Thai Senate foreign affairs committee visits ASEC
Jakarta (8 February) -- A delegation from the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Senate of Thailand today visited the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta and paid a courtesy call on the Secretary-General of ASEAN, Dr Surin Pitsuwan.
During the ensuing discussion with the Secretary-General and members of his staff, the 20-member delegation, led by the Chair of the Committee, Mrs. Pikulkeaw Krairiksh focused on regional cooperation in a wide variety of issues ranging from economic integration, fisheries, education and ASEAN community-building. The delegation was also accompanied by the Permanent Representative of Thailand to ASEAN, Ambassador Manasvi Srisodapol.
In the wake of much interest in the ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement, Dr Surin highlighted the importance of economic integration. "No one country in the region can isolate itself from the world," he said, adding that there was a need to explain the merits of FTAs that ASEAN has entered into to the wider regional public. The ASEAN-China FTA, which came into effect on 1 January 2010, had raised some concerns, especially among the private sector and business associations in some countries, that their domestic industries would be under pressure from cheaper Chinese imports.
With China's real GDP growth creeping back up to double digit levels after the global financial crisis and the fact that its large and expanding middle-class offers a very strong potential market, the supply line to China is crucial for ASEAN, stressed Dr Surin.
The Senate delegation also urged ASEAN to explore ASEAN cooperation in the fisheries sector as it was an important revenue generator for several countries in the region. Briefing the delegation on the current regional framework on fisheries cooperation, Ambassador Manasvi highlighted the work of the ASEAN Fisheries Consultative Forum. Cooperation is expected to be enhanced as the region was keen on the revival of the ASEAN Fisheries Federation which is an ASEAN-accredited civil society organisation, he said. The region was also looking at establishing the ASEAN Maritime Forum which is envisaged to address comprehensively maritime issues.
The topic of education was also raised with both sides agreeing on the importance of promoting ASEAN cooperation in education. The Secretary-General also called for support from the Thai Senate for ASEAN community-building efforts. (ASEC) [top]