Opening Remarks by Dr. Haruhisa Handa

Chancellor, The University of Cambodia

At the First Asia Economic Forum

" The Future of Asia: The First East Asia Summit and Its

Implications for Asia and the World"

 Hotel Le Royal, Phnom Penh,
24-25 October 2005



·        Senior Minister Dr. Keat Chhon, as the High Representative of His Excellency Samdech Hun Sen, Prime Minister of Cambodia

·        Excellency Ong Keng Yong, Secretary-General of ASEAN,

·        Excellencies,

·        Ladies and Gentlemen,



At the outset, I wish to welcome all our distinguished overseas participants as well as participants from Cambodia to this First Conference of the Asia Economic Forum, which is being launched here in Phnom Penh. I am pleased to see His Excellency Senior Minister Keat Chhon, Minister of Economy and Finance, once again, after our meeting last month.


The presence of Senior Minister Dr. Keat Chhon, as the High Representative of His Excellency Samdech Hun Sen, Prime Minister of Cambodia, at the opening of the Asia Economic Forum's First Conference is very important to us. At the same time, I am delighted to see Excellency Ong Keng Yong, Secretary-General of ASEAN, once again after our meeting last year, also here in Phnom Penh. The contribution of the Secretary-General of ASEAN to this AEF's First Conference is undoubtedly significant.


As this Conference will focus its deliberations on the "First East Asia Summit and Implications for Asia and the World," I would like to share my views briefly on the issues and challenges facing Asia, particularly East Asia. As most speakers will discuss the various issues related to the East Asia Summit, I will make my opening remarks more in general. 


In the period immediately after the Asian Financial Crisis (1997-1998), there were signs that some Asian economies had begun to stabilize, contributing to the hope that the terrible economic crisis had come to past. Many economic forecasts showed that the Asia region is bound for economic prosperity. Major economic developments in India and China are projected for years to come, and this growth will trickle down to other developing Asian countries. However, in the light of all these positive forecasts, Asia’s development continued to generate issues, challenges, and concerns. The impact of epidemic diseases, natural disasters, environmental issues, economic competition, human resource development, high oil prices, and widening development gaps within countries and among nations raised new sources of uncertainty and risk in Asia. As a rapidly changing region, Asia is a strategic geopolitical and economic continent. Its impact on global politics, economics, security, and social landscape cannot be understated.


Significant awareness of Asia’s economic issues is starting to develop, and I am proud today to promote a policy dialogue to tackle major issues facing the Asian region. At a time of increasing globalization, and growing regionalization in the world, it is imperative for the Asia Economic Forum to accord its priority to promote Asia’s development, based on the following:

  1. A shared partnership of cooperation, collaboration, and concerted actions;

  2. Engaging in constructive dialogue, policy research, regional integration, as well as in addressing the overall strategic issues and development challenges for Asia’s community;

  3. Becoming a dynamic and concerted force of positive change and transformation; and 

  4. Seeking to promote Asia’s unity, solidarity and collaborative action for peace, security, development and prosperity.

We are here today to explore options to promote sustainable development, which includes human development, economic progress, and environmental sustainability in Asia. In order to achieve our goal of sustainable development across Asia, we as a community must do it together. We must take on the collective responsibility of:

·  Preventing epidemics

·  Collectively aiding natural disaster areas, and

·  Developing long-term sustainable policies that promote a more balanced development. 

It is our duty at present and in the days to come to assist all Asian countries in seeing economic prosperity. 


I was in Asia during the Asian Financial Crisis and the devastating 2004 Tsunami which took the lives of hundreds of thousands of victims and economically crippled some of those Asian nations. Now, I am in Asia again through pandemic spread of SARS and the Avian Flu. Asia has gone through a great deal of economic hardships over the past decade. Its economy absorbed extraordinary shocks and still manages to maintain a strong market systems. That is impressive by any standard.


I have seen development potentials of Asia wherever I go. However, these development potentials must be managed in the short, medium, and long-term to achieve sustainable development for future generations. It is the goal of this forum to collectively and carefully consider Asia’s issues, rationale and strategic implications for building Asia’s Community, and look at the road ahead towards a prosperous Asia. I hope this forum will provide the ground to examine, analyze, and debate these topics as thoroughly as possible, as we will discuss the First East Asia Summit throughout today.


Let me close by saying that seeing national and international government policymakers, think tanks, scholars, business leaders, and the community come together and work cooperatively for the betterment of Asia is most gratifying. I hope that everyone takes time to listen, make your voice heard, consider one another’s ideas, and contribute positively to the development of Asia’s economy.


Thank you for participating in the First Conference of The Asia Economic Forum."