Welcome Remarks given at the Opening Session of the "3rd Annual NEAT Conference" by Ito Kenichi
Text of the Welcome Remarks by Prof. Ito Kenichi, President of JFIR, Host CC, at the Opening Session of the 3rd Annual Conference of NEAT in Tokyo on 22-23 August 2005
Ambassador Wu Jianmin, Professor Yupah Klangsuwan, Mr. Tanaka Hitoshi,
Distinguished Participants of the MEAT Annual Conference, Ladies and Gentlemen,
In my capacity as President of the Japan Forum on International Relations (JFIR) which is the Host of the 3rd Annual Conference of the Network of East Asian Think Tanks (NEAT), I would like to extend my heartfelt welcome to all of you who have gathered here to attend this Conference.
One year has passed since the last Annual Conference of NEAT was held in Bangkok, Thailand on 16-17 August 2004, In retrospect, this one year has witnessed the worst ever tragic casualties, dead and missing, of more than 300 thousand caused by the undersea earthquake and the ensuing tsunami that struck Indonesia and other coastal nations of the Indian Ocean in December last year and in March this year.
On this occasion of the Annual Conference of NEAT, I would like to ask all of you who are here to join me in offering a silent prayer for one minute for the souls of those who perished by the earthquake and the tsunami.
Thank you. Please rise from prayer.
Also in retrospect, I notice the fact that, in spite of the damages incurred by the natural disasters, the East Asian economies continue to be the engine of the growth of the world economy. Even the Japanese economy has finally found itself on the sunny side of the street with the real growth rate of 2% in 2003 and 1.9% in 2004. Against the background of this robustness of the East Asian economies, negotiations between countries inside the region on Free Trade Agreements (FTA) and/or Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) are progressing rapidly. Not only in the field of trade, but in the fields of finance, investment, science and technology, environment, energy, anti-piracy, anti-drug, anti-terrorist, etc., a record of functional cooperation is rewritten every day.
It was agreed at the ASEAN plus 3 Foreign Ministers meetings in Vientiane, Laos on July 27 that the East Asia Summit (EAS) be held in Kuala Lumpur this December with the participation of ASEAN plus 3, the last3 being India, Australia and New Zealand. We welcome this decision of the ASEAN plus 3 Foreign ministers meeting because it indicates that the community building in East Asia is based on the principles of openness, transparency, inclusiveness and comprehensiveness, as it will be confirmed again in the discussions of our NEAT Annual conference today and tomorrow.
It is my pleasure report to you that in Japan in May last year the Council on East Asian Community (CEAC) was established. It is a private gathering of scholars, journalists, politicians and businessmen who are interested in Community building in East Asia. We published a policy Report on August 11. It was a product of yearlong discussions in the council on East Asia Community and was signed by 58 members of the Council. A copy of the Report is included in the “Conference Materials' distributed to every one of you who registered for entry at the receptionist desk of the receptionist desk of this Conference. We hope you would find it both useful and helpful.
One thing salient with this year's NEAT Annual Conference is the fact that we are not to see each other for the first time since we met each other at the last Annual Conference I Bangkok, Thailand. We organized six Working Groups to work on six topics at the NEAT Country Coordinators Meeting held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on December 5 last year. Since then until today the six Working Groups on the six topics of finance, monetary, energy, investment, guidelines and architecture of community building have been energetically working and have produced six Reports, which are to become the basis of discussions at this year's Annual Conference today and tomorrow. Also important is another fact that the result of this year's deliberations will be summarized as Policy Recommendations of NEAT and will be presented to both ASEAN plus 3 Summit and East Asia Summit, which are to be held in Kuala Lumpur this December.
Let me conclude my Opening Remarks by saying that East Asia today stands at the crossroads and that it much depends upon the way the think tanks in the region think where East Asia goes.
Thank you very much.