Search

 

Cablegate: Business and Investment Meetings Kick Off

VZCZCXRO9840
RR RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHGH RUEHPB RUEHVC
DE RUEHGP #2075/01 3231110
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 191110Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY SINGAPORE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4440
INFO RUCNARF/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE
RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 2033
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 1871
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 4135
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 5754
RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON 1374
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0120

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 SINGAPORE 002075

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL ETRD EINV ECON ASEAN SN BM
SUBJECT: BUSINESS AND INVESTMENT MEETINGS KICK OFF
ASEAN-RELATED SUMMIT MEETINGS

REF: SINGAPORE 2052

1. (SBU) Summary: The ASEAN Business and Investment Summit,
hosted by the ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ASEAN-BAC),
was held in Singapore November 16-18 as the curtain raiser
for a cycle of ASEAN-related summit meetings that will
continue through November 22 (see official summit program,
para 10). The main events include the 13th ASEAN Summit,
which will feature the signing of the ASEAN charter (reftel),
the ASEAN Plus 3 Summit (including ASEAN plus China, Japan
and South Korea), and the East Asia Summit (including the
ASEAN Plus 3 and India, Australia and New Zealand. A key
theme of eminent persons, ministers, and leaders who
addressed the ASEAN-BAC was the need for the business
community to press for ASEAN integration and provide feedback
on next steps. Officials acknowledged that integration has
until now been a "top-down" process, and said governments
must continue to educate the private sector and public to
show the advantages of ASEAN integration. In public remarks
touching on Burma, Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong said no one
in Asia supports sanctions, while Singapore FM George Yeo
said East Asian Summit Leaders, building around a core ASEAN
position, should come out with a statement to support Gambari
and the process of national reconciliation in Burma and call
for a time-bound road to democracy. End summary.

Business and Investment Summit
------------------------------

2. (U) The first event in the cycle of ASEAN-related summits
in Singapore over a seven-day period concluding November 22
was the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit, hosted by the
ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ASEAN-BAC) on November
16-18. ASEAN-BAC is comprised of prominent business people
from ASEAN member nations. CDA and Emboffs attended various
sessions of the summit along with business leaders and
invited members of the diplomatic corps, academia and media.
The summit featured sessions with representatives of: the
Eminent Persons Group (EPG) that guided the drafting of
ASEAN's new Charter; ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM); and
ASEAN heads of government.

3. (U) Representing the EPG were former Malaysian Deputy
Prime Minister Tun Musa Hitam, former Indonesian Foreign
Minister Ali Alatas, and ASEAN Secretary General Ong Keng
Yong. Acknowledging ASEAN's reputation as a "talk shop" and
that the Charter may be greeted with "cynicism," Musa
contrasted ASEAN's history of with that of the European Union
and argued that the draft Charter was the best that could be
achieved given ASEAN members different stages of development.
He stressed that the Charter was a living document that
would be strengthened over time and called on the business
community to put pressure on governments to push further
integration. Describing himself as a "hard-liner," Musa
admitted that he would have preferred stronger mechanisms to
ensure "compliance" among members with their ASEAN
commitments. He applauded the ASEAN Chairman's strong
September 27 statement on Burma and suggested the Charter
could eventually be useful for encouraging positive change in
Burma.

4. (U) Alatas also highlighted ASEAN's unique history,
arguing that the organization had done much to build
confidence and preserve peace among highly nationalistic and
mutually suspicious post-colonial states. The "ASEAN way,"
(i.e. consensus) had served ASEAN well in building a sense of
unity among states that knew little about one another forty
years ago. Alatas warned, however, that unless the ASEAN
developed "greater flexibility" in its decision-making, it
would continue to be a "lowest common denominator"
organization. He said ASEAN was "saddled with" the Burma
problem, whose resolution would take time, patience, and
combination of "understanding and firmness."

5. (U) Ong said the Charter would help ASEAN integration,
and said the organization would "do more" with further
revisions. In response to a question, he provided an upbeat
assessment of prospects for ASEAN economic integration by the
2015 target date, saying the 2010 tariff reduction program
was almost complete. He acknowledged that the newer ASEAN
members were struggling to keep up tougher issues such as

SINGAPORE 00002075 002 OF 003


services. Both Musa and Alatas described themselves as
former cynics on economic integration, but said they are now
more optimistic, in part because competition from China and
India would force ASEAN to do more. Musa flagged movement of
people as particularly sensitive issue that leaders would
have to handle with care.

6. (U) In the Economic Minister's session, Singapore Minister
for Trade and Industry Lim Hng Kiang outlined ASEAN's
blueprint for achieving the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by
2015, which will also be launched during the ASEAN summit
meeting. Lim described four "pillars" of the blueprint: free
movement of goods, services, and investments, increased
competition, more equitable development, and plans for
plugging into the global trade systems. He described the
free movement issue as "well underway," and noted that
tariffs should be eliminated by 2010. Businesses now needed
to help ASEAN governments identify non-tariff measures, he
said. ASEAN nations had already signed mutual recognition
treaties related to engineering and nursing qualifications.
Lim said he hoped agreements for other fields would soon be
concluded. ASEAN still faced challenges concerning
competition policies and infrastructure, according to Lim.
Regarding the Doha round, he told the audience he was
disappointed that the U.S. business community had not
"educated" Congress to its importance. Businesses had done a
much better job with past rounds, he said.

7. (U) Cambodia's Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh said
that competition policies and differing levels of development
were large hurdles to overcome. Cham opined that after forty
years, ASEAN was still only loosely integrated and, as a
result, stood to lose out to China and India. ASEAN now
needed a "rules-based community," and the blueprint was the
document that would serve as a guide. It was important not
to forget less developed ASEAN nations, he said. Cambodia
and Laos could not compete with Singapore and Thailand's high
technology sectors but still had much to offer in labor
intensive industries. Cham said Cambodia's primary advantage
lay in its flexibility. His country had no vested interests
and could quickly adopt new systems and technologies.

8. (U) Indonesia's Minister of Trade Mari Elka Pergestu
emphasized the challenge posed by India and China. She
stressed the importance of streamlining paperwork and
increasing transparency in order improve ASEAN's efficiency.
It was important for ASEAN governments to increase their
domestic industries' level of confidence about opening their
economies. Domestic strategies to boost the ability of firms
to compete on an international level were also necessary.
She acknowledged that tax and customs officials needed to
increase their levels of professionalism and asked the
business representatives in the audience to refrain from
paying bribes. Pergestu said that Indonesia was identifying
"islands of excellence" within its civil service, and using
those offices as examples. She agreed with Lim that Doha was
not dead and said she was "reasonably optimistic" about the
process. Doha participants were now waiting for enough
"convergence" to bring their ministers back to the table,
possibly in the first quarter of 2008. Looming U.S.
protectionism was less of a threat to Indonesia than the
overall state of the world economy, she said.

Burma
-----

9. (SBU) In public remarks touching on Burma, Singapore PM
Lee Hsien Loong said no one in Asia supports sanctions.
Singapore FM George Yeo said the key will be for the ASEAN
Leaders to arrive at a common position and then for East
Asian Summit Leaders, building around the core ASEAN
position, to come out with a statement to support Gambari and
the process of national reconciliation in Burma and call for
a time-bound road to democracy.

Program for Summit Meetings
---------------------------

9. (U) Following is the program for the remaining
ASEAN-related summit meetings:


SINGAPORE 00002075 003 OF 003


November 18

--ASEAN Standing Committee Preparatory Meeting

November 19

--Presentation to the ASEAN Foreign Ministers on the ASEAN
Charter by the High Level Task Force

November 20

--13th ASEAN Summit (Plenary and Retreat)
--11th ASEAN Plus 3 Summit
--11th ASEAN-China Summit

November 21

--11th ASEAN-Japan Summit
--11th ASEAN-ROK Summit
--6th ASEAN-India Summit
--3rd East Asia Summit (Plenary and Retreat)

November 22

--Meeting between ASEAN Chair and EU Troika
--ASEAN-EU Commemorative Summit

Visit Embassy Singapore's Classified website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eap/singapore/ind ex.cfm
SHIELDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Gordon Campbell: On The Chemical Weapons Attack (and Response) In Syria

The past week’s headlines about the chemical attacks in Syria – and the military response by the US, France and Britain – have tended to overshadow a few of the downstream outcomes. More>>

ALSO:


North Korea: CTBTO Statement On Disarmament

I welcome the announcement by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) to halt its nuclear testing programme and to dismantle the test site. This is a strong signal and an important step in the right direction. More>>

ALSO:

Pacific Moves: China, Vanuatu And Australia

Washington’s vigilant deputy, doing rounds on the beat in the Pacific, has been irate of late. The central issue here is the continuing poking around of China in an area that would have been colloquially termed in the past “Australia’s neighbourhood”. More>>

ALSO:

Diplomatic Madness: The Expulsion of Russian Diplomats

How gloriously brave it seemed, some 23 nations coming together like a zombie collective to initiate a fairly ineffectual action in of itself: the expulsion of Russian diplomats or, as they preferred to term it, intelligence operatives. More>>

ALSO:

Campbell On: the US demonising of Iran

Satan may not exist, but the Evil One has always been a handy tool for priests and politicians alike. Currently, Iran is the latest bogey conjured up by Washington to (a) justify its foreign policy interventions and (b) distract attention from its foreign policy failures. More

ALSO:

 
 
 
 
 
 
  • Pacific.Scoop
  • Cafe Pacific
  • PMC