Asia-Pacific countries make historic call for a regional economic community
Asia-Pacific countries unanimously adopted a landmark declaration at a United Nations forum of ministers, outlining the road map towards a regional economic community.
Top government leaders, ministers and senior officials from 36 countries adopted the ‘Bangkok Declaration on Regional Economic Cooperation and Integration in Asia and the Pacific,’ at the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) on 20 December, resolving to work closer together to build an integrated market, seamless transport and energy connectivity, financial cooperation, and enhance resilience to address vulnerabilities and risks of natural disasters.
“This is an historic and defining moment in the history of ESCAP, as we take new steps with our member states to deepen and broaden the process of regional economic cooperation and integration, and as we work even more closely together to ensure that this will truly be the Asia-Pacific century,” United Nations Under-Secretary-General and ESCAP Executive Secretary Dr. Noeleen Heyzer told the conference. “This declaration holds the promise of region-wide cooperation and policy-making in finance, connectivity, and addressing shared vulnerabilities."
In his address to the opening ceremony, H.E. Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão, Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste stressed the need for regional cooperation to reduce growing inequalities and disparities across Asia and the Pacific: “While some countries are becoming increasingly prosperous, others remain stagnant or face great challenges …we must work towards forms of regional economic cooperation and integration which most effectively spread prosperity and development among all countries.”
The Premier of Niue, H.E. Toke Tufukia Talagi, reminded the conference of the threat to the very survival of the Pacific island countries posed by the impact of climate change and highlighted the need to strengthen relationships between the Pacific and Asia.
“Growing together means picking up those who are weak as well,” H.E. Faumuina Tiatia Liuga, Finance Minister of Samoa, and Chair of the Ministerial Conference said.
The four-pillared agenda of regional cooperation and integration outlined in the Bangkok Declaration was prepared following a mandate from Asia-Pacific countries attending the annual ESCAP Commission Session in May 2012 which had as its theme: ‘Growing Together: Economic Integration for an Inclusive and Sustainable Asia-Pacific Century’.