Singapore's Foreign Minister Shanmugam to attend Asean meeting in KL Tuesday

Singapore Foreign Minister K Shanmugam will be attending the 48th Asean Ministerial Meeting in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday.
Singapore Foreign Minister K Shanmugam will be attending the 48th Asean Ministerial Meeting in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday.PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

Singapore Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam will be in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday to attend the 48th Asean Ministerial Meeting at an important juncture for the South-east Asian grouping.

This meeting "is important because at the end of this year, we are looking at Asean 2015 integration", Mr Shanmugam, who is also Law Minister, told a press briefing late last week.

The 10-nation grouping is "forming a bloc where there's freer movement of goods, services, people, and which has tremendous potential", the minister added, noting that Asean as a whole is the seventh-largest economy in the world with a combined GDP of US$2.4 trillion (S$3.3 trillion) that is projected to hit US$4 trillion in 2020.

"And that holds a lot of potential for all the countries including Singapore," he said.

While sticking points still exist, the Asean integration effort has to be seen as a process, he added.

"Wherever we reach, it's a good baseline and it's not the end, that's the baseline for the next stage," he explained.

He noted too that the South China Sea disputes will likely be discussed as they are an issue, but that these are just a sub-set of the broader Asean -China ties.

"It cannot dominate the agenda. I think we have to try and find a way of moving forward on all the issues and South China Sea tensions are one of the issues," he said.

Singapore will also be taking over from Thailand as country coordinator for Asean-China dialogue relations at this Asean foreign ministers' meeting and other related meetings that are taking place from Tuesday to Thursday.

The Asean foreign ministers will also meet their counterparts from Asean's dialogue partners, including Australia, China, India, Japan and the United States.

They will also meet their counterparts at the Asean+3 (which gathers Asean and China, Japan and South Korea) and East Asian Summit foreign ministers' meetings as well as at the Asean Regional Forum.

suinoi@sph.com.sg