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ASEAN foreign ministers to experience ASEAN's multi-modal connectivity

01-21-2011 22:21 BJT

JAKARTA, Jan. 21 (Xinhua) -- ASEAN Foreign Ministers will be embarking on Sunday, a road trip traversing Thailand, Lao People's Democratic Republic (PDR) and China, which will coincide with the 20th anniversary of ASEAN-China dialogue partnership followed by an ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers' Meeting on January 25, a statement released by ASEAN Secretariat said here on Friday.

The three-day program will begin on January 23 in Chiang Rai, Thailand. The Foreign Ministers will cross the Mekong River on a barge to Houey Xay in Lao PDR, and then travel by coach to Luang Nam Tha, before driving to Jinghong and flying into Kunming in China.

The Thai Foreign Minister, H.E. Kasit Piromya, when inviting his counterparts, noted that the trip will demonstrate intra-ASEAN and ASEAN-China mainland, maritime and aviation connectivity. The Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity, adopted by ASEAN Leaders at the 17th ASEAN Summit in October last year, is ASEAN's response to the region's need to be better connected physically, institutionally and in terms of people-to-people contact.

Minister Kasit also expected the trip to "kick-off a good year in ASEAN-China relations" on the "auspicious" 20th anniversary.

The Secretary-General of ASEAN, Dr Surin Pitsuwan, who will also join the Ministers on this multi-mode travel said, "Multi-modal connectivity is extremely critical for ASEAN integration and community building." "We are now embarking on land transport. Sea and air transports are also being developed with equal sense of urgency," he added.

"This road trip is an attempt by ASEAN Foreign Ministers and their Chinese counterpart H.E. Yang Jiechi to demonstrate to the world that we are effectively connected and this connection will certainly improve by the time ASEAN becomes one Community by 2015, " he confirmed.

The R3A is one of the new highways serving the North-South Economic Corridor, which stretches over 2,000 km. The highway links Thailand with Lao PDR and Yunnan Province, China.

The ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers' Meeting is expected to exchange views on advancing ASEAN-China relations, including connectivity, cultural exchanges, ASEAN-China Free Trade Area ( ACFTA), and the East Asia cooperation.

The ACFTA, realized on January 1 last year, opened up a combined market of 1.9 billion people, accounting for a combined GDP of close to 6 trillion U.S. dollars and a total trade volume of 4.5 trillion US Dollars.

Surin explained that China offers a huge and expanding market for all ASEAN Member States. "We are talking about an almost two billion people strong market combined between ASEAN and China. Our commodities, our tourism industry and our services sector will benefit a great deal from our connectivity with China," he concluded.

The ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers' Meeting will be preceded by a launching ceremony of the ASEAN-China Friendship and Exchange Year, also held in Kunming. Kunming is the capital city of the Southwestern province of Yunnan, which shares borders with three ASEAN Member States -- Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam.

Editor:Xiong Qu |Source: Xinhua

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