More than 1,200 delegates from participating countries and over 1,000 members of Thai and international media are attending ASEAN meetings in Phuket, southern Thailand.
The 42nd ASEAN Ministerial Meeting is taking place, with Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva presiding over the opening ceremony on July 20. The ASEAN Foreign Ministers will hold three meetings on July 21 to discuss the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone, the ASEAN Political-Security Community, and the ASEAN Coordinating Council.
On July 22, meetings between the ASEAN Foreign Ministers and the dialogue partners will be held, and on July 23, the 16th ASEAN Regional Forum will convene, ending with the closing ceremony of the 42nd ASEAN Ministerial Meeting.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, major topics of discussion include the establishment of an ASEAN Community by 2015, measures to deal with current regional and global problems, food and energy security, the environment and disaster management, and prevention and control of pandemic diseases.
These issues will help pave the way toward the 15th ASEAN Summit, to be hosted by Thailand in October 2009 under the theme “Acting Together to Cope with Global Challenges.” Again, the island of Phuket was announced as the venue for the next ASEAN summit in October.
ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan expressed his satisfaction with the security arrangements for the series of high-level ASEAN meetings being held in Phuket. Local officials and the public have all been fully informed and have pledged their full cooperation.
In related news, a study shows that the ASEAN Economic Community to be established by 2015, when tariffs on all intra-ASEAN goods will be eliminated, will result in an increase of Thailand’s GDP by 1.75 percent.
According to the Director of the Center for International Trade Studies at the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, Dr. Aat Pisanwanich, the study also shows that Thailand’s exports to the ASEAN region will increase by 22.9 billion baht, while imports will rise by 16.2 billion baht annually.
Thai products make up 70 percent of ASEAN trade, which involves 11 items, namely processed agricultural goods, farm produce and livestock, fishery products, electrical appliances and electronic products, textiles, chemicals, rubber and plastics, wood products, automobiles and auto parts, petroleum, and iron and metal products.
Of all these products, Thailand is likely to gain a trade surplus of 12.5 percent in intra-ASEAN trade from processed agricultural goods, and 14.2 percent from automobiles and auto parts.
It is expected to suffer a trade deficit of 4.5 percent from petroleum products.