By Khamphone Syvongxay
ASEAN Ministers of Agriculture and Forestry met yesterday in Vientiane with the aim of strengthening cooperation between the 10 member countries. This was the 34th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Agriculture and Forestry (AMAF) and the 12th AMAF+3 (which includes China, Japan and Republic of Korea as partners).
The meetings follow the Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) and the SOM+3 held earlier this week.
The meetings were opened by Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong and were attended by the ASEAN Ministers of Agriculture and Forestry and AMAF+3 ministers, along with senior officials and secretariats from the 10 ASEAN member countries.
In the 45 years since its formation, ASEAN has seen advancement in many areas, including political security and socio-economic and cultural development, said Mr Thongsing.
He said ASEAN has become one of the most successful groupings of countries and has helped transform the region into one of peace, stability and prosperity.
Now, ASEAN is looking ahead to a period of significant development with the inception of the ASEAN Community in 2015. The body will be based on three pillars – a politically secure community, economic community and socio-cultural community – on which it will build towards future progression, said Mr Thongsing.
Since becoming an ASEAN member 15 years ago, Laos has been able to strengthen and promote relations in the areas of economics, free trade, service, investment and cultural exchange, along with intra ASEAN visits.
Laos has had active involvement in various areas and has committed to doing all it can to contribute to and strengthen ASEAN solidarity. It has also supported cooperation among ASEAN member countries, as well as with ASEAN dialogue countries and other development partners, Mr Thongsing explained.
Laos’ agriculture and forestry sector in particular has improved cooperation with ASEAN member countries. This has brought great success to Laos and to the region, through the implementation of a cooperation agreement, cooperation framework, and various ASEAN and ASEAN+3 projects.
This has resulted in a gradual improvement in the lives of the people of Laos and the region, in particular those who work in the farming industry, Mr Thongsing said.
The current issues facing the ASEAN region and the world, such as poverty, food shortages, climate change and natural disasters, still remain challenges that require much cooperation from all parties involved.
The sustainable mana-gement and protection of natural forests and the environment, food security, bio-energy development, food safety, control of animal diseases, free trade and services are the key goals for the future.
Although during recent years the economy in the ASEAN region has weathered various downturns, the pace of recovery is not quite as strong as it once was, Mr Thongsing warned.
He said the situation requires each ASEAN country to adopt appropriate policies and measures, combined with effective regional cooperation in order to gradually speed up the pace of economic recovery in ASEAN countries.
Past crises and challenges have shown that ASEAN member countries should apply strong management and protect their natural resources if they want to have food security.
They should also create more job opportunities, protect the environment and ensure biodiversity, as well as striving for sustainable development, Mr Thongsing added.
He shared his belief that through the meetings such as those currently taking place, the ASEAN family would be made stronger and opportunities would again be created for member countries and development partners to strengthen solidarity and mutual support.
Photo Credit: Vientiane Times