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Cablegate: Asean Secretariat's Post-Summit Readout

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UNCLAS JAKARTA 003264

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TREASURY FOR IA-SETH SEARLS
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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON PHUM PREL PGOV KDEM ID BM
SUBJECT: ASEAN SECRETARIAT'S POST-SUMMIT READOUT


1. (SBU) Summary. In an ASEAN Summit debrief, Secretariat officials
stated that the member countries were frustrated that the press
focused too much on ASEAN's handling of Burma, taking attention away
from the historic importance of the Charter signing. Dhannan
Sunoto, Director of the Secretariat's Bureau of External Affairs,
maintained however that the member countries acted appropriately in
letting Burma participate in the Summit and sign the Charter, and
that they were maintaining pressure on their fellow member while
keeping it engaged. Sunoto continued to predict that not all member
countries would ratify the Charter by next year's Summit deadline,
and worried that member country governments would "play politics"
over issues such as Burma, using the Charter as a bargaining chip.
He did not worry, though, that the situation in Burma would impede
economic integration efforts or trade negotiations with dialogue
partners because of ASEAN's ability to negotiate deals among and as
a sub-group of its members ("ASEAN Minus X"). In a brief readout of
the ASEAN-EU Summit, which followed the ASEAN Summit itself, Sunoto
expressed some frustration that the EU did not send appropriate
representation. End Summary.

BURMA SITUATION OVERSHADOWS IMPORTANT MILESTONE
--------------------------------------------- ---

2. (SBU) Sunoto expressed frustration on behalf of the Secretariat
and member countries that the media focused more on ASEAN's handling
of Burma rather than the historic importance of the charter signing.
He said the coverage of the Summit was especially disappointing for
Singapore, who, as the host, wanted to highlight the Charter and the
planned ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).

3. (SBU) Sunoto continued that ASEAN acted appropriately in allowing
Burma to sign the Charter. Burma had to be included in order to
maintain a sense of solidarity with ASEAN. The reason that ASEAN
even exists, he explained, is that it maintains a core principle of
non-interference in member countries' domestic affairs. Sunoto
acknowledged that in order for the organization to implement the
Charter principles, this policy would have to change, but that this
would have to happen gradually.

4. (SBU) Sunoto pointed out that member countries were already
starting to slowly move away from the non-interference principle,
citing their public condemnation of the Burmese government's actions
to date. He also felt that the junta's current cooperation with the
UN was partly the result of ASEAN pressure. Member countries have
started to realize that, although they do not want to interfere in
Burma's domestic affairs, Burma's domestic affairs are starting to
interfere with ASEAN, and the organization needs to address that
fact.

ASEAN CHARTER FACES A ROUGH RATIFICATION PROCESS
--------------------------------------------- ------

5. (SBU) Sunoto continued to predict that not all member countries
will be able to ratify the Charter by next year's Summit. He said
that member countries that have separate executive and legislative
branches, such as Indonesia and the Philippines, could have a more
difficult time ratifying the Charter, as these legislatures have not
had as much input into its contents as parliamentary governments in
countries such as Thailand. Sunoto also expressed disappointment in
Philippine President Arroyo, who recently said that her country
would not ratify the Charter unless Burma demonstrates concrete
steps towards democracy. He felt that she, and potentially other
member country leaders, would "play politics" using the Charter as a
bargaining chip to keep their constituents happy.

ASEAN ECONOMIC INTEGRATION WILL PROCEED
-------------------------------------------

6. (SBU) Sunoto did not worry that the situation in Burma or the
economic disparity of ASEAN's members would hinder the group's
efforts towards economic integration or complicate its ability to
negotiate trade agreements with dialogue partners. He said that
ASEAN can negotiate deals among or as a sub-group of its members
("ASEAN Minus X"). ASEAN can exclude countries such as Burma from
agreements with outside entities who may object to its inclusion,
such as the proposed free trade agreement (FTA) with the European
Union. Similarly, ASEAN can take steps towards economic integration
among the six or seven countries that are able to proceed
immediately. Poorer members, such as Burma and Cambodia, can
integrate later when they are ready. Once these excluded countries
see the benefits that the more advanced members derive from economic
integration or FTAs with dialogue partners, Sunoto explained, they
will likely want to speed up reforms so that they too can
participate and benefit.

ASEAN-EU SUMMIT: REPRESENTATIONAL ISSUES
-----------------------------------------

7. (SBU) In a brief readout of the ASEAN-EU Summit, which followed
the ASEAN Summit itself, Sunoto expressed some frustration that the
EU did not send appropriate representation. As an example he pointed
out that an appropriate representative of the next EU Presidency,
Slovenia, did not attend the Summit as expected. Sunoto said that
this is a common occurrence, where ASEAN frequently sends higher
level representatives to meetings with dialogue partners, but that
the partners do not reciprocate. Member countries place a high
importance on protocol and are insulted when they perceive that
partners do not show the same regard for interactions with ASEAN.

HUME

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