ASEAN-US Leaders Meeting to create Eminent Persons Group

September 21, 2010 12:10 pm 

By Gloria Jane Baylon

MANILA, Sept. 21 — An Eminent Persons Group (EPG) of Southeast Asians and an American is expected to be created by the 2nd Leaders Meeting on September 24 of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the United States (ASEAN-US), the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said.

President Benigno Aquino III is helping preside the afternoon Leaders Meeting in New York. He left on Monday with his 57-member delegation for the two-week visit to the United States that is highlighted by him addressing the United Nations General Assembly, also on September 24.

For the ASEAN Charter, for example, former Philippine President Fidel V. Ramos and revered Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas are the EPGs of their respective countries.

But it is not clear if they, along with the eight other EPGs of the rest of the ASEAN member states, will be the same persons, plus the American choice, to be named to the ASEAN-US EPGs.

The main role of the ASEAN-U.S. Eminent Persons Group is “to make recommendations for the forging of a Strategic Partnership between ASEAN and the United States in the fields of political, economic, security, and socio-cultural cooperation,” according to DFA.

A Joint Statement that will highlight important areas of ASEAN-US cooperation would be adopted after the two hour-long discussions which Aquino will help lead because of the Philippines’ role as the Country-Coordinator of the Leaders Meeting until 2012.

The 10 ASEAN Leaders will meet with U.S. President Barack Obama in New York “to discuss progress on ASEAN-U.S. cooperation, as well as exchange views on international and regional issues,” the DFA said.

The Leaders Meeting symbolizes the increasing level of engagement and regional cooperation between the ASEAN member states and the U.S.

DFA noted that in its role of Coordinator, “the Philippines shepherds cooperation between ASEAN and U.S., particularly the implementation of the outcome of the Leaders’ Meetings, the directives of Foreign Ministers issued during the annual Post-Ministerial Conference session with the U.S., and the Plan of Action to Implement ASEAN-U.S. Enhanced Partnership.”

In his written invitations for the New York meeting to Vietnamese President Nguyan Minh Triet, who is the current ASEAN chair, and to all the ASEAN leaders, Obama "reiterated the U.S. policy of reinvigorating engagement with ASEAN, which it regards as a key partner in the promotion of peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region," according to DFA.

In 33 years of ASEAN and U.S. relations, the New York Meeting will only be the second specifically between that of ASEAN as a group and U.S. leaders. The first was in Singapore at last November’s inaugural meeting of the Leaders Meeting.

In a Joint Statement at the Singapore inaugural meeting, the Leaders noted the renewed ASEAN-U.S. engagement.

In the same Statement, the U.S. stressed that "ASEAN is an invaluable and trusted partner whose role in Asia and the world is growing," according to DFA. (PNA)

LDV/GJB

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