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PM Nguyen Tan Dung speaks at ASEM 6 Summit's Opening Ceremony

(VNA) - Today, we are all very delighted to gather here in Helsinki, the capital city of Finland, a beautiful and prosperous country, to attend an extremely important event, the 6th Asia-Europe Meeting Summit. From this August forum, I would like to extend to the people of Finland the warmest greetings of friendship and best wishes from the people of Viet Nam. I also would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to the Prime Minister, Government and people of Finland for the warm hospitality extended to us and excellent arrangements to make the Summit a great success.

The ASEM 6 Summit takes place at a crucial time when ASEM is celebrating its tenth anniversary. The strong development of our forum in the last decade clearly shows that its foundation was a wise decision.

Historically, the two continents and their linkages have always played a very important role in global conjunctures. Asia and Europe once were the cradles of glorious civilizations and now jointly make up half of the world production and trade. Overcoming the ups and downs of the history, the two continents have engaged in multi-faceted cooperation on the basis of equity, mutual respect and benefit.

The inception of ASEM was an historic hallmark that created a new momentum for the development of Asia-Europe ties. In the last ten years, this process has been further deepened and broadened.

From its 26 founding members, at the Ha Noi Summit, ASEM has expanded to embrace 13 new members and now more and more states would like to join our family. ASEM is not only the forum for governments but also a magnet to business communities and mass organizations, including youth.

The areas and scope for cooperation have been expanded with increasingly substantive activities. Since economic and trade relations play an important role in generating wealth for ASEM members and creating a solid basis for the multi-faceted cooperation between our two continents, we have strengthened our ties in these fields through the Trade Facilitation Action Plan (TFAP) and Investment Promotion Action Plan (IPAP).

At the same time, cooperation in finance, environment protection, human resource training and science and technology, especially in the Information Technology area, has been strongly promoted. At the historic ASEM 5 Summit, the Ha Noi Declaration on Closer Economic Partnership (CEP) was adopted to further substantiate Asia-Europe cooperation.

A diverse and unique culture has been the strength of both Asia and Europe. Therefore, cooperation in this field has contributed to enhancing mutual understanding among our nations.

In a world full of complex developments, we have conducted dialogues in the spirit of mutual trust and respect to further consolidate peace, promote cooperation for sustainable development, and establish a fair and equitable world order not only in our two continents but also in the world at large.

In such context, what ASEM has done during the past 10 years is not insignificant. All three pillars of cooperation in the economic and trade, political and cultural areas have achieved impressive progress. However, there remain potentials untapped and opportunities missed to further promote Asia - Europe cooperation.

Today, the world economy has recovered strongly but remains uncertain with currency volatility and price fluctuations, especially rising oil prices. Globalization, though continuing to move forward, is challenged by the failure of the Doha Round, increasing signs of protectionism and a widening development gap between rich and poor countries. Global issues such as disasters, epidemics, terrorism and trans-national crimes, and etc., are becoming more serious. Peace and cooperation for development are still a prevailing trend. However, we are witnessing tensions as a result of the arms race and conflicts over ethnic, religious, territorial and natural resource issues, etc.

In this context, more than ever, ASEM is required to be more active in the spirit of " 10 Years of ASEM : Global challenges - Joint Responses" , the theme we defined for ASEM 6.

It is our view that, at the Helsinki Summit and in the years to come, we should pay more attention to the burning issues of the time and live up to the expectations of the people of all members.

Cooperation in economics and trade and investment, as well as in finance and science and technology should continue to be a priority of the ASEM process. At the same time, for the sake of sustainable development, due attention should be given to cooperation in human resources development, environmental protection, prevention of disasters and epidemics, especially HIV/AIDS and avian influenza. Along those lines, action should be taken to implement the Ha Noi Declaration on ASEM Closer Economic Partnership (CEP), and to elaborate a plan of action with concrete measures to further substantiate our cooperation. We believe that it is now time to resume an active role for our economic ministers so as to materialize our policies. I also believe the IT Ministerial Meeting to be held in Ha Noi this December will create a new momentum for strengthening Asia – Europe cooperation, especially at a time when the IT industry is booming with profound changes not only in the socio - economic but also in cultural fields and the people's lifestyles.

Energy has become and will continue to be a burning issue in the future. It is our view that ASEM should deepen its cooperation in this critical area, especially in energy saving and renewable energy development. We are willing to host an ASEM forum on energy security policy and hope to receive active support and response from members.

As part of the world economy, we look forward to an early resumption of the Doha Round. Countries concerned should display greater flexibility, taking into account the legitimate interests of all parties, especially developing nations. I am of the view that the ASEM process, with its influence and strength, could make worthy contribution to this end. We would also like, once again, to express our sincere thanks to ASEM members for your strong support for our accession into the WTO. We look forward to your continued support in this regard so as to enable us to join the organization at the coming WTO General Council Session.
To further enrich our cultures and cement friendship among nations, cultural exchanges should continue to be promoted. Tourism is an effective cooperation channel not only in the economic but also cultural areas. In this connection, we propose that our officials be asked to study the possibilities of establishing an Asia-Europe Tourism Network aimed at promoting our cooperation in this area.

Besides bilateral cooperation between the two continents, as a matter of our conscience and responsibility, we should continue political dialogues on issues related to peace and development as well as the latest developments in Asia, Europe and the world at large on the basis of mutual trust and respect.

To translate our ideas into reality and to live up to the expectations of our people, it is imperative that the modus operandi of ASEM should be improved and reformed to be more effective. In addition to the government forums, business cooperation and people-to-people exchanges, especially among the youth, should be encouraged.

Building on the achievements over the past 10 years and in the spirit of our traditional friendship and cooperation, we strongly believe that the ASEM 6 Summit, under the able chairmanship of H.E. Prime Minister Vanhanen, will be a great success, creating new impetus for the ASEM process.

10 years of Viet Nam's participation in ASEM coincides with the country's comprehensive reform and active integration process. We always take sustainable development as a guiding principle, combine economic growth with social equity and poverty reduction, and attach great importance to human resource development and the effective use of natural resources and environmental protection.

Thanks to the reform and open-door policy, the Vietnamese people have recorded remarkable achievements. Viet Nam is now known as a stable society, a dynamic economy and an attractive destination for foreign investors and tourists. The country has achieved a number of the Millennium Development Goals before the deadline, which has been recognized by the international community. Our average GDP growth rate over the past 10 years was above 7 percent. Total export value, at present, accounts for more than half of GDP. The poverty rate, according to the international standard, was halved from 58 percent in 1993 to 22 percent in 2005.

Our objectives in the next 5 years are to bring Vietnam out of the less developed status and create a firm foundation for the country to basically turn into an industrial and modern nation by 2020. We will continue to accelerate our comprehensive reforms, improve our market institutions, put in place a transparent legal framework, create a liberal environment conducive and equal to all businesses. At the same time, measures will be taken to intensify the fight against corruption, administrative reform and active integration into the regional and the world economy.

Viet Nam will continue to consistently pursue the open foreign policy of independence, sovereignty, peace and development, diversification and multi-lateralization of external relations. It is also our policy to integrate more into the regional and world economy in the spirit that Viet Nam is a friend, a reliable partner and an active and constructive member of the international community, striving for peace, independence and sustainable development. As a country in Southeast Asia and Asia Pacific, Viet Nam has made active contributions to ASEAN and APEC. We are now working hard to prepare for the 2006 APEC Summit to be held in Ha Noi this November. Besides its active contributions to the ASEM process, Viet Nam attaches great importance to the promotion of multi-faceted cooperation with ASEM members. Viet Nam would like to be a firm part of the bridge connecting our two continents and we will do our utmost to contribute to further enhancing the Asia-Europe partnership. On our path of reform and development, Viet Nam looks forward to the continued support and cooperation of our Asian and European friends./.

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