The Myanmar Delegation led by U Kyaw Tin, Union Minister for International Cooperation, arrived back this evening after attending the 12th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM 12) Summit held in Brussels from 18 to 19 October 2018, according to a press release issued by the Ministry of International Cooperation yesterday.
On 18 October, the Union Minister attended the Opening Ceremony of the ASEM 12 Summit and the Gala Dinner hosted by European Council President H.E. Mr. Donald Tusk, to the Heads of Delegation of the ASEM partners at the Europa Building in Brussels.
Refrain from use of trade sanctions
On 19 October, the Union Minister attended the Plenary Sessions of the ASEM Summit held at the Europa Building and delivered a statement at the First Session under the theme of “Building the future together: Promoting inclusive growth and sustainable connectivity”. In his statement, Union Minister U Kyaw Tin stressed that ASEM will be able to serve as a bridge in bringing Asia and Europe closer by striving to enhance connectivity between the two regions.
He also recalled that some tangible progress in connectivity has been achieved since the striking of agreement on the definition of connectivity at the 13th ASEM Foreign Ministers’ Meeting successfully hosted by Myanmar in November 2017.
Myanmar has indicated keen interest in promoting connectivity in three focus areas between Asia and Europe, namely Telecommunication and digitalization, Tourism, Trade and investment. In talking about promoting trade connectivity, the Union Minister also stressed the importance of free trade and rules-based multilateral trading system as well as the need for the ASEM partners to refrain from use of trade sanctions and any other measures that could impede or disrupt the free flow of trade between Asia and Europe.
Retreat Session of the ASEM 12 Summit
The Union Minister attended the Retreat Session of the ASEM 12 Summit. At the Retreat, ASEM leaders exchanged views on international and regional issues including Sustainable Development Goals, climate change, migration, cyber security, world trade and Women Rights issues.
Terrorism reached to Myanmar’s door step last year, as ARSA’s terror attacks took place twice in Rakhine State
As some leaders made reference to the issue of Rakhine State in their discussions, Union Minister U Kyaw Tin responded to their remarks and briefed the meeting on the issue of Rakhine. The Union Minister voiced his agreement on the need for ASEM partners to enhance cooperation in the fight against the growing threat of terrorism. The Minister highlighted that terrorism reached to Myanmar’s door step last year, as ARSA’s terror attacks took place twice in Rakhine State.
The first time was one month after the establishment of the Kofi Annan Commission, and the second time within a few hours after the release of the Final Report of the Commission. He stated that the issue of Rakhine is a complicated and multi-faceted one involving migration, poverty, rule of law and national security.
Resolving the Rakhine issue was one of the priorities of the Government, as it is an important component of its democratization process. The Union Minister pointed out that there is no quick fix or solution to the long standing problem between the communities with deep mistrust, as we cannot make law or give orders to love each other.
The Union Minister stated that the attacks in 2017 was targeted not only the security forces but also the other innocent civilian communities in Rakhine State. Such attacks caused fears, insecurity and instability among the communities and triggered mass movements to the Bangladeshi side. International community didn’t pay much attention on the threats of the ARSA terrorist group.
The Government of Myanmar has been making necessary preparations in accordance with the bilateral agreement reached with Bangladesh and stands ready to receive the verified returnees as and when Bangladesh starts sending them back. The Government of Myanmar has also signed a MoU with the UNDP and the UNHCR for assisting the speedy and efficient resettlement and rehabilitation of returnees, and the UN team has finished the first phase of assessments and has been accorded permission to start second phase of assessment in the potential project areas.
The Union Minister also reiterated the Government’s commitment to addressing accountability based on evidence of human rights violations and informed the meeting about the establishment of an Independent Commission of Enquiry which includes two eminent diplomats from the Philippines and Japan. He concluded by appealing the leaders to try to understand the issue based on objective, impartial and accurate information and reports before making any important policy decision.
At the conclusion of the Summit, the Chair’s Statement of the 12 ASEM Summit was issued under the theme of “Global Partners for Global Challenges”. In the Chair’s Statement, future cooperation areas between Asia and Europe were outlined under Political and Security pillar; Economic and Financial pillar; and Social and Cultural pillar. With regard to the issue of Rakhine State, the Chair’s statement mentioned that ASEM partners looked forward to the implementation of the Arrangement on Return of Displaced Persons from Rakhine State and Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed among Myanmar, UNDP and UNHCR and highlighted the importance of accountability, and expressed their continued support for the stability, rule of law, national reconciliation and sustainable development in Rakhine State.
While attending the ASEM Summit in Brussels, the Union Minister held separate bilateral meetings with H.E. Mr. Alain Berset, President of the Swiss Confederation, H.E. Ms. Federica Mogherini, Vice-President of the European Commission / High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, H.E. Ms. Margot Wallstrom, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sweden and H.E. Ms. Marise Payne, Ministr of Foreign Affairs of Australia on the sideline of the Summit and discussed issues of mutual interests and promotion of bilateral relations and recent developments with regard to the issue of Rakhine State.
During the meeting with the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the European Commission, the Union Minister U Kyaw Tin exchanged views with the former on bilateral relations, the issue of access to Generalised Scheme of Preferences as well as recent developments surrounding the issue of Rakhine State.
If EU withdraws its GSP, it would harm livelihood of 400,000 workers and their families
The Union Minister explained that the EU’s Generalised Scheme of Preference (GSP) has provided benefits and job opportunities to the people of Myanmar especially to those 400,000 workers in the garment sector 90% of which are women. It would potentially harm the livelihoods of those vulnerable people, affecting estimated 2 million people including their families, if the EU decides to withdraw GSP on Myanmar. In addition, Union Minister informed her that Myanmar Government stands ready to receive the proposed visit of the EU trade delegation and is making arrangements to hold discussion about the issue.
ASEM was founded in 1996 with the objective of promoting cooperation between Asia and Europe.
Today, ASEM has 51 members, 21 countries from Asia, 30 countries from Europe and two organizations, the European Union and the ASEAN Secretariat. ASEM Summits were held every two years alternately in Asia and Europe. The 13th ASEM Summit will be hosted by Cambodia in 2020, according to the Ministry of International Cooperation.