The Nation



Regional economic declaration adopted in Bangkok by Asia-Pacific countries

Thirty-six Asia-Pacific nations unanimously adopted the "Bangkok Declaration on Regional Economic Cooperation and Integration in Asia and the Pacific", which outlines a road map towards a regional economic community.

Top government leaders, ministers and senior officials adopted the declaration on Friday at a conference of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (Escap) held in Bangkok. They resolved to work together more closely to build an integrated market, seamless transport and energy connectivity, and financial cooperation, and to enhance resilience to address vulnerabilities and risks of natural disasters.

"This is a 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," Dr Noeleen Heyzer, United Nations under-secretary-general and Escap executive secretary, 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, Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao, prime minister of East Timor, 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."

Threats to island countries

The premier of Niue, 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.

Faumuina Tiatia Liuga, finance minister of Samoa and chairman of the ministerial conference, added: "Growing together means picking up those who are weak as well."

The four-pillared agenda of regional cooperation and integration outlined in the Bangkok Declaration followed a mandate from Asia-Pacific countries attending the annual Escap Commission Session in May last year, which had as its theme "Growing Together: Economic Integration for an Inclusive and Sustainable Asia-Pacific Century".

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